Texas Lawmaker's Former Mistress — an ISIS Divorcée — on Why She Exposed Affair Days Before Primary

Tania Joya told The Dallas Morning News that she became irritated by seeing Rep. Van Taylor's face on billboards across Plano

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Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Van Taylor's former mistress Tania Joya is explaining her decision to reveal her affair with the Texas representative — as he quickly dropped out of his re-election race when their relationship was made public.

Joya, who previously made headlines because she was married to an Islamic State fighter, told The Dallas Morning News in a story published Monday that she first came forward to Republican candidate Suzanne Harp, a primary challenger to Taylor, after becoming irritated by seeing Taylor's face on billboards across Plano.

"All I wanted was for Suzanne Harp to just say, 'Hey, I know your little scandal with Tania Joya. Would you like to resign before we embarrass you?' But it didn't happen like that," Joya told the paper.

Joya claimed that her affair with the Texas politician lasted from October 2020 to June 2021. She said she met Taylor while working to help former extremists, adding that they "were very close" afterward.

She was not aware that the primary election was just five days away when she came forward with her story, she told the News.

Joya also spoke out in an interview with the right-wing website Breitbart News. "He labeled me his girlfriend, his mistress," she told the site of Taylor in a story published Monday. "I told him that I found him attractive. After that for an entire month, every day during October 2020, he wouldn't stop messaging me like crazy. It was just so distracting. He was going crazy for it."

Taylor's office did not respond to PEOPLE's request for further comment.

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Joya was born to a Muslim family in a suburban area north of London in 1983, according to a 2017 profile by Texas Monthly. The U.K. native was previously married to John Georgelas, a Plano resident who went on to fight for ISIS.

Long before her affair with Taylor began, however, Joya had cut off contact with Georgelas, according to the Texas Monthly profile, which traced how she returned home with their kids weeks after going with him to Syria.

According to that story, she subsequently divorced Georgelas and focused on deradicalization. She said in the story published in November 2017, of her ex: "I don't know if he's alive."

Georgelas is believed to have been killed that same year.

Joya, speaking with the News this week, shared more details of her side of the relationship with Taylor. She said that he once gave her $5,000 to help with some of her bills, "on the condition that [she] don't tell anyone" about their affair.

"I didn't want to tell anybody anything," she continued before adding, "I needed help. I was like, just help me out because that's the least — the very least — he could do."

Taylor was seeking re-election for a third term when Joya's account surfaced. He has since bowed out of the race, likely conceding his seat to Collin County Judge Keith Self.

In an emailed letter to supporters, the Texas politician apologized to constituents as well as his wife Anne and three daughters, according to the News and The Texas Tribune. He did not mention Joya by name.

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Van Taylor. Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty

"About a year ago, I made a horrible mistake that has caused deep hurt and pain among those I love most in this world. I had an affair, it was wrong, and it was the greatest failure of my life," Taylor wrote.

"For months, Anne and I have been working to repair the scars left by my actions. I am unworthy, but eternally thankful for her love and forgiveness," he wrote to supporters.

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In an interview with local station KXAS on Wednesday, Self asked the public to respect Taylor's privacy "and let him handle this with his family in his way."

"I just ask people to respect that," Self said. "My response is that we need to be praying for Van and Anne and their girls. And beyond that, we'll deal with the political side but this is something that transcends any campaign."

In his email to supporters, the News reports, Taylor admitted to letting down "so many other family members, friends, colleagues, supporters and the people of the 3rd Congressional District whom I have had the great honor and privilege to represent."

"I am truly sorry, and I hope in time I can earn their forgiveness," he wrote.

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