On Wednesday, a Richmond circuit judge kicked Independent candidate Shaun Brown off the congressional ballot, dealing a setback to Virginia Beach GOP Rep. Scott Taylor. Taylor's campaign had ham-handedly collected signatures to boost Brown, an African-American who was the Democratic nominee against Taylor in 2016, to split his opposition. But the judge ruled that the petitions contained numerous forgeries and involved "out and out fraud."

Taylor's race against former Naval Surface Warfare officer Elaine Luria was already highly competitive, considering Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam carried the 2nd CD by four points last November. But without Brown, it moves from Lean Republican to the Toss Up column.

Taylor says he knew of his campaign's efforts to help Brown get on the ballot but denies he was aware of forged signatures. And, it's possible these ballot shenanigans will simply fly over most voters' heads. But Taylor is still a relatively undefined freshman, and the "dirty tricks" that have dominated news of the race for the past few weeks could help Democrats chip away at his image as a squeaky-clean Navy SEAL.

Taylor's military profile and his political base as a state delegate from Virginia Beach helped him unseat GOP Rep. Randy Forbes in the 2016 primary after court-ordered redistricting forced Forbes into an unfamiliar seat. But as President Trump carried this seat by just 48 percent to 45 percent that fall, Taylor didn't have a serious Democratic opponent. That's not the case this year, and Taylor admits the 2017 outcome was a "wake up call."

Democrats knew they needed to find a veteran in this military-dependent district, and they got one in Luria, who also owns a plaster mermaid-oriented gifts business. Luria was one of three female Naval Academy graduates from the early 1990s and has raised $1.3 million to Taylor's $2.8 million. So far, most private polls have shown her down single digits. But the political environment and Taylor's unforced error could help her close the gap.

In the end, Taylor's bigger liabilities could be his votes for the GOP healthcare and tax bills and the lack of a competitive statewide race to drive GOP voters to the polls. Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine is expected to carry the 2nd CD easily and could sweep Luria in with him.

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