WASHINGTON — Democratic Rep. Gene Taylor of Mississippi caused something of a minor sensation in political circles Monday when a comment he made to the Sun Herald of Biloxi, Miss. — that he had voted for GOP nominee John McCain instead of Democratic standard-bearer Barack Obama in 2008 — went viral on the web.
The Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper, queried the Sun Herald and wrote a story, which was matched by one in Politico and linked on various websites, including the Washington Post’s website. The NBC Nightly News and CBS Early Show also mentioned the vote — an unusual act of party treason.
Taylor, for his part, in an interview Tuesday downplayed the episode and said that only national reporters were reacting with surprise. “Locally, they know,” said Taylor of his constituents and media. However, a search of the Sun Herald archives did not turn up any revelation about Taylor’s vote, which is by secret ballot.
Taylor said that at the time of the 2008 election, die-hard Democrats in the Magnolia State confronted him about his choice and he said he told them: “I know John McCain. I don’t know Barack Obama.”
Taylor complained Tuesday that Republicans were trying to jump on the admission for the 2010 election.
“They’re trying to make it a sign of desperation,” he said.
The 21-year U.S. House veteran finds himself in a close re-election race against Republican Steven Palazzo, a Mississippi House member. The race, said Taylor, “is tighter than expected.”
Given Taylor’s reputation as a conservative — he refused to vote for then-Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., for speaker in 2004 — the Sun Herald asked Tuesday if the Mississippi Democrat had voted for Republican George W. Bush in 2004 and 2000. After a pause, Taylor said, “I’m not being evasive. I just don’t remember.”
Given his GOP sympathies, would he consider switching parties?
“I’m a Democrat," he said. "I’m on the ballot as a Democrat.”
Are you going to stay a Democrat?
Questioned about that opening — which he has never made before, at least publicly — Taylor backed off and said, “I have every intention of remaining a Democrat.”