Congressman Scott Taylor Drops Out of Only Scheduled Debate Amid Scandal

August 13, 2018

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Today, The Virginian-Pilot reported that Congressman Scott Taylor has dropped out of the only scheduled debate in Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District because he is “upset with the station’s news coverage of a controversy involving his campaign staff.”

“It’s becoming clear that as he dodges questions about his role in this scandal, Congressman Taylor is terrified of facing Commander Luria one on one, whether that’s on the ballot or on the debate stage,” said Kathryn Sorenson, Elaine Luria’s campaign manager.

The WHRO-sponsored debate was scheduled for the evening of October 23 and was set to be a televised debate moderated by respected members of the community and press corps. The debate would have offered every resident of the 2nd Congressional District the opportunity to hear from their candidates free of charge.

Key excerpts from The Virginian-Pilot article:

U.S. Rep. Scott Taylor has withdrawn from a planned WHRO-sponsored Oct. 23 debate with Democratic candidate Elaine Luria because he is upset with the station’s news coverage of a controversy involving his campaign staff helping an independent candidate get on the ballot, WHRO president Bert Schmidt said Monday.

WHRO’s radio affiliate WHRV-FM first reported that Taylor campaign workers helped Shaun Brown collect petitions and produced a second radio report about invalid signatures.

[…]

The Democrats’ suit filed in Richmond Circuit Court against top state election officials argues that of the 1,030 signatures on Brown’s petitions that election officials ruled were valid, the party found 35 names fraudulently used. Brown needs a minimum of 1,000 valid signatures to be on the ballot.

In addition to the 35, the suit states “a substantial number of other voters reached by the Party in the course of the investigation verbally confirmed that they did not sign the Petition but were unwilling to sign an affidavit citing concerns about unwanted public attention.”

[…]

According to Schmidt, Taylor, a Virginia Beach Republican seeking a second two-year term, told him in a phone call last week that he was backing out of the WHRO’s debate because of its coverage of the claims of false signatures. Schmidt said Monday he defended their coverage, saying it was fair and factual.

WHRV-FM first reported Aug. 1 that four members of Taylor’s campaign circulated petitions on Brown’s behalf two days before the June 12 filing deadline, helping her gain enough names to be on the ballot. On Aug. 6, the station reported four people listed in the petitions said they never signed them. The station also interviewed the widow of a deceased man whose name was listed on the petition.

[…]

Other groups are also hoping to organize candidate debates for the 2nd District election, but as of Monday, none have been confirmed.

[…]

Luria, who was campaigning in Norfolk Monday with Sen. Tim Kaine, was critical of the Taylor campaign’s actions.

“Integrity is doing what’s right when no one is looking,” said the Norfolk businesswoman. “There’s a lot of questions for Scott Taylor and his staff to answer about this current situation with the petitions.”

Voters are talking about it to her, she said: “What people are bringing up is there’s underhanded gamesmanship of trying to meddle with the ballot.”

[…]

Read the full story here.

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