Once a favorite of conservatives in Collin County, second-term U.S. Rep. Van Taylor is now facing two opponents in the 2022 Republican primary for Texas’ 3rd Congressional District. Both rivals are challenging Taylor from the right.
Former Collin County Judge Keith Self and political newcomer Suzanne Harp are courting conservative GOP 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.
“Van has become tone deaf and is not listening to his constituents,” Terry Wade, a conservative leader within the Collin County GOP, told Texas Scorecard.
Taylor—a Harvard-educated businessman, Marine Corps veteran, and former state lawmaker from Plano—was first elected to Congress in 2018, when Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson retired after 28 years in office.
He ran on his record as a taxpayer champion during four state legislative sessions and “the most conservative member of the Texas Senate.”
Taylor was re-elected to Congress 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 in May of this year, when he was one of two Texas Republicans who voted with Democrats to create the January 6 commission.
“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.
“He has changed after going to Washington,” said Sharron Albertson, another longtime Republican activist and conservative leader in Collin County who supported Taylor in the past.
Albertson is now endorsing Keith Self.
Self, a West Point graduate who served 25 years in the U.S. Army before running for office, earned a reputation as a fiscal conservative during his three terms as chief executive of Collin County.
He also considered running for Congress when Johnson retired, but he ultimately deferred to Taylor. Republican activists dissatisfied with Van’s recent job performance encouraged Self to take on Taylor this time.
“Here in Texas, he said he was a conservative—but when he went to Washington, he went Washington,” Self says, adding Taylor has “lost his way.”
Republican gubernatorial candidate Allen West has endorsed Self.
Taylor’s other primary challenger, Allen businesswoman Suzanne Harp, describes herself as a “conservative, pro-Trump, America First” candidate.
Harp says CD 3 “deserves a fighter, not a sellout.”
Despite the local criticism, Taylor has racked up high-profile endorsements from U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, U.S. Rep. Ronny Jackson, State Sens. Bob Hall and Bryan Hughes, State Rep. Bryan Slaton, former Gov. Rick Perry, and Rafael Cruz.
Taylor’s voting record while in Congress also earns high ratings from several conservative groups, though his scores dropped from 2019 to 2020.
He’s earned a perfect lifetime score of 100 from Heritage Action, a lifetime 93 from Club for Growth (down from 100 in 2019 to 86 in 2020), and a lifetime 91 from the American Conservative Union (from 100 in 2019 to 82 in 2020).
FreedomWorks assesses Taylor a lifetime score of 86, a year-to-year drop from 93 to 67.
Ratings for 2021 aren’t yet available.
Taylor also earned a “Trump score” (devised by data analysts at FiveThirtyEight to measure how often a legislator voted in alignment with President Donald Trump) of 89 percent.
Whatever voters make of Taylor’s voting record and endorsements, he enters the primary race with a substantial war chest. A September 30 campaign finance report shows Taylor raising almost $1.7 million this cycle, with $1.2 million cash on hand. Self and Harp have yet to file their first financial reports.
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 the 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.
The newly drawn district is solidly Republican, but one Democrat, Sandeep Srivastava, has announced a run for the seat. Srivastava lost a bid for the Plano City Council in May.
More candidates may enter the primary races. The filing deadline is December 13.
The 2022 primary elections are scheduled for March 1.