Is Scott Taylor the right Republican to challenge Mark Warner?

Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia is up for reelection in 2020. Warner is a formidable candidate, but he shouldn’t be considered unbeatable. Ed Gillespie came very close to defeating him in 2014.

Even so, Republican politicians in Virginia have not seemed eager to challenge Warner. To my knowledge, the only one to enter the race so far is former Rep. Scott Taylor. He threw his hat into the ring earlier this month.

Taylor served one term in the House before losing last year to Elaine Luria. Taylor’s reelection bid was hampered by evidence that his aides committed election fraud. Specifically, it appears that they forged signatures on a petition to get an independent candidate into the race. The idea was that this candidate would siphon votes away from Taylor’s opponent.

One of Taylor’s ex-staffers has been indicted, and the matter is still being investigated by a special prosecutor. Taylor denied knowledge of the election fraud and said he fired staffers responsible when he found out. However, Democrats pointed to records showing he kept paying some of them after that.

A second scandal also threatens Taylor’s Senate run, his connection to indicted former congressman Duncan Hunter. According to the Washington Post, in 2018, after Hunter was accused of using campaign funds to pay for travel, dinner and drinks with women with whom he had extramarital affairs, Taylor’s political action committee donated to Hunter’s reelection. It also accepted a donation from Hunter’s political action committee.

Scandals aside, conservatives should have reservations about Taylor. Conservative Review points out that, as a member of the House, Taylor supported “profligate spending”:

In May 2017, Taylor voted for a $1.1 trillion spending bill that funded Democratic Party priorities and left conservatives out to dry. Roughly 160 conservative priorities were stripped from the bill before it was passed to remove so-called “poison pills” that would upset Democrats. The bill declined to defund sanctuary cities, refugee resettlement, or Planned Parenthood and actually blocked funding for a border wall on the southern border. . . .

In March 2018, Taylor voted for another massive government spending bill that broke Republican promises and funded Democratic priorities just before the 2018 elections. This 2,232-page, $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill passed with Republican majorities in the House and Senate did not repeal Obamacare, secure the border, or defund Planned Parenthood. The bill did increase the national deficit by $1 trillion and included a gun control measure opposed by conservatives.

Scott discussed the first of these measures here. John and I discussed the second one here.

Virginia Republicans may be tempted to rally behind Taylor, since he’s the only announced Republican candidate. However, they are better advised to keep their powder dry. There is still time for a more conservative, less scandal-ridden candidate to emerge.