TX-17: Taylor vs. Edwards

A “political survivor” is about the best way to characterize Rep. Chet Edwards (D.-Tex.), who first ran for Congress at age 27 back in 1978 in a special election won by then-Democratic Rep. and later Republican U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm. That was in the old College Station-based 6th District. Edwards later moved to Duncanville and won election to a state senate seat, and, when a Waco-based U.S. House district opened up in 1990, he moved again and ran for it and won. Two years ago, when a redistricting plan crafted by the Republican-controlled legislature made four U.S. House seats held by Democrats vulnerable to GOP challengers, three of the four incumbents went down and only Edwards survived—narrowly—getting 52% of the vote.

Now, at age 54 and after 16 years in Congress, Edwards is again facing a spirited Republican challenge in a district that gave George W. Bush two-thirds of its votes in 2000 and 70% in ’04 (and actually includes Crawford and the President’s polling place). U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Van Taylor, in the inactive ready reserve of the USMC, is carrying the GOP standard. After service in Iraq and on the Mexican border (where he worked on drug interdiction), the 33-year-old Harvard Business School graduate and investment businessman will try to take his experience in business and uniform to Congress. The contrast with the incumbent is obvious: “Edwards is one of those highly skilled and motivated Democrats … who have made politics his life,” according to the Almanac of American Politics.

“You really have to search to find out where my opponent stands,” says Taylor. For example, Edwards (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 31%) voted for HR 4437, with its tough border security provisions, but points out on his own website that, in so doing, it was “not because I supported every provision” of the bill. Based on his service along the border, Taylor makes it clear that “I’m for strong border security and no guest-worker program, period.”

Edwards styles himself a “fiscal conservative watchdog” and supporter of tax cuts, But the National Taxpayers Union has given him a grade of “D” or “F” every year since he came to Congress. Taylor makes it clear that he backs the President’s tax cuts and vows never to vote to raise taxes.

“You can’t have it both ways,” is how Taylor describes his opponent. With Van Taylor, what the voter sees, the voter will get: a conservative who means what he says and says what he means.