GOP primary challengers focused on attacking the absent incumbent in a congressional candidate forum hosted Saturday by the Collin County Republican Party.

U.S. Rep. Van Taylor, once a favorite of conservatives in Collin County, is now facing four rivals challenging him from the right in Texas’ 3rd Congressional District.

All four—Suzanne Harp, Jeremy Ivanovskis, Keith Self, and Rickey Williams—participated in Saturday’s debate.

Party Chairman Abraham George said Taylor declined an invitation to the forum due to the ongoing House session in Washington, D.C.

Challengers are courting voters who say Taylor changed after going to Washington, pointing to his recent voting record as evidence he’s no longer a reliable Republican representative.

“The reason there’s four people up here right now is because we know Van Taylor no longer represents us,” Williams said. “We need to get him out of office.”

“This district has been compromised,” added Self.

Taylor’s longtime supporters disapprove of him aligning with Democrats as part of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus. They’re also disappointed he relocated his family to the D.C. area (though he maintains a home in the district), a move they believe disconnects him further from his constituents.

Questions and Answers

Several forum questions were designed to contrast challengers’ positions with Taylor’s. Their responses were fairly similar.

All four said that, unlike Taylor, they would have voted against both certifying the November 2020 electoral votes and forming the January 6 Commission. Taylor’s vote in favor of Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s commission was a big reason he lost support from many district voters.

Ivanovskis said he reached out to Taylor’s office but got no response, a complaint shared by other constituents.

“The January 6 Commission is now being used to intimidate the rest of conservatives across the nation” from exercising their First Amendment rights, Self said.

The four candidates also agreed they would fight against federal medical mandates and for Texans to be reimbursed for defending the southern border.

Williams said the U.S. needs to reinstitute the Remain in Mexico policy and shut off the “magnets” to illegal immigration.

“We can’t wait until 2024,” said Self, adding we need to get Mexico invested by closing the border to commercial traffic.

Candidates were also asked what made them the most qualified to represent CD 3 residents.

“What uniquely makes me different in this race is I’m a mom,” Harp said, adding that she’s “often the only woman in the room” in business dealings. She said that and homeschooling give her “a whole new perspective on how to raise up a country.”

“I’m not part of the swamp,” said Ivanovskis. “Just a citizen trying to protect the Constitution.” He touted his county and municipal experience as a former law enforcement officer.

“You really need someone who’s been there, who’s got a proven record,” Self said, noting his record of service in both the military and as head of Collin County government. “Many of you in this room have voted for me many times in the past.”

“I’ve been a conservative all my life. Now I’m in education,” said Williams, adding he’s turned around campuses and districts with conservative principles. “We’ve got to get the federal government out of our nation’s classrooms.”

About the Challengers

Keith Self is the only challenger with a record of holding elected office. He served 12 years as the Collin County judge, earning a reputation as a fiscal conservative. Prior to that, the West Point graduate served 25 years in the U.S. Army. Self is endorsed by Texas gubernatorial candidate Allen West, Eagle Forum PAC, and the daughter of late U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson, who represented CD 3 for 28 years.

Suzanne Harp is a political newcomer who touts her experience as a homeschooling mom as her top qualification. Harp’s professional background is in sales and marketing, and last year she joined an investment bank. Her son is chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R–NC).

Rickey Williams is a realtor with a long history of working in Texas’ public education system as a teacher, coach, principal, superintendent, and current deputy executive director of the Region 10 Education Service Center.

Jeremy Ivanovskis is another political newcomer. He’s served as a peace officer and is currently an airline flight attendant fighting against mask and vaccine mandates. He says his platform is the Constitution.

The Collin County GOP conducted a straw poll immediately following Saturday’s forum.

Self was the top choice, winning 46 percent of the 233 participants. Harp was second with 38 percent. Taylor took just 2 percent, showing his unpopularity with the assembled crowd.

Yet Taylor, who is running for his third term in the U.S. House, has garnered re-election endorsements from several Texas Republican politicians, including U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, U.S. Rep. Ronny Jackson, State Sens. Bob Hall and Brian Hughes, State Rep. Bryan Slaton, and multiple members of the Texas Freedom Caucus (State Reps. Mayes Middleton, Matt Schaefer, Briscoe Cain, and Steve Toth).

He’s also endorsed by Texas Right to Life and the Texas Home School Coalition.

About the Incumbent

Taylor—a Harvard-educated businessman, Marine Corps veteran, and former state lawmaker from Plano—was first elected to Congress in 2018, when Sam Johnson retired.

He ran on his record as a taxpayer champion during four state legislative sessions, and was re-elected in 2020 after running unopposed in the GOP primary.

Yet some Collin County conservatives had begun to question Taylor’s commitment to their priorities.

In Washington, Taylor earned the nickname “Mr. Bipartisan.” An endorsement from The Dallas Morning News called him “a model of reaching across the aisle to Democrats to achieve results that have a positive impact.”

In July 2020, Taylor was one of 71 Republicans (six from Texas) who voted with Democrats to remove Confederate statues from the U.S. Capitol. Taylor’s vote came just days after Texas Republicans had made protecting and preserving historical monuments and statues a legislative priority.

But the biggest blow to conservatives’ confidence in Taylor came last May, when he was one of two Texas Republicans who voted with Democrats to create the January 6 Commission.

Taylor defended his vote on The Mark Davis Show.

“Our best chance to get the answers America needs is through this bipartisan commission,” Taylor told the radio host.

Constituents didn’t buy his rationale. For some, it was the last straw.

His Republican challengers are hoping to turn voters’ discontent with Taylor into an upset over the incumbent.

About Congressional District 3 and the 2022 Primary

The 3rd Congressional District currently encompasses most of Collin County and a majority of voters in the biggest cities within the county: Frisco, Plano, McKinney, and Allen.

Under new redistricting maps, CD 3 still includes most of Collin County, adding sparsely developed areas along the north and eastern perimeters, but with large chunks of Frisco and Plano cut out. The new district also includes most of Hunt County to the east of Collin.

Two Democrats, Doc Shelby and Sandeep Srivastava, are also competing for a spot on the November ballot.

Early voting in the March 1 primary begins on February 14.