Politics

Scott Taylor Served ‘Poetic Justice’ in Election Loss, Prosecutor Says

Virginia Republican lost House race, but petition signature scam investigation goes on

Rep. Scott Taylor, R-Va., acknowledged “there's no question” that his re-election campaign was hurt by allegations that his campaign staff forged signatures on a petition to get an independent candidate on the ballot. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A special prosecutor will press on with his investigation into allegations of fraud by Virginia Rep. Scott Taylor’s re-election campaign, but for now, he’s gratified.

“There’s no hurry,” attorney Don Caldwell told the Virginian-Pilot. “It looks to me like there already was some poetic justice served down there in Virginia Beach to Mr. Taylor.”

The 2nd District Republican lost his re-election bid to Democrat and first-time candidate Elaine Luria by two points Tuesday night.

Taylor faltered in the polls after media reports uncovered dozens of forged signatures on petitions circulated by his aides to get an independent candidate on the ballot. Virginia Democrats sued the state board of elections, accusing four staffers with the Taylor campaign of forging the names in a gambit to split the Democratic vote.

A circuit court judge disqualified the independent candidate and ordered every ballot petition sheet be tossed after he found them to be “rife with errors, inconsistencies, and forgeries.” 

He appointed Caldwell, commonwealth’s attorney in Roanoke, as the special prosecutor charged with overseeing the case in August.

Taylor acknowledged Thursday that “there’s no question” that the controversy contributed to his defeat in an interview with local media Thursday, but argued he does not bear any personal blame for the forgeries.

“Some Republican operatives have used the term ‘self-inflicted wounds,’” a reporter asked. “Do you feel that way?”

Taylor responded that “obviously what happened with the signature issue — that wasn’t a self-inflicted wound meaning me, I would never approve of anything like that — but certainly for the folks on the campaign that did that ... did that contribute to it? Absolutely.”

Even as the scandal derailed his campaign, Taylor’s campaign continued to pay the four staffers accused of committing the forgeries, according to Federal Election Commission records. They face felony charges punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $2,500 fine. Taylor dipped into his campaign coffers for $10,000 in legal expenses. 

Taylor also blamed his defeat on a weak top-of-the-ticket Senate candidate in Corey Stewart — who lost his bid to unseat Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine by double digits — and heavy outside spending targeting his district. Outside groups aligned with both parties invested heavily in the race, according to ProPublica’s FEC Itemizer. 

Candidates for Congress in Virginia must collect at least 1,000 signatures from residents of the district to appear on the ballot in a general election.

The Taylor campaign sought to secure a place for Shaun Brown, his 2016 Democratic opponent, on the November ballot as an independent candidate. President Donald Trump carried the district over Hillary Clinton by 3 points in 2016, while Taylor cruised to a 23-point victory over Brown.

Watch: With the Midterms Over, Get Ready for Investigation Nation and Congressional Gridlock

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