It is a clash of titans: The clout of an endorsement from former President Donald Trump faces down the legacy of the Bush family political dynasty in the GOP primary for Texas attorney general.
Current Attorney General Ken Paxton has been endorsed by Trump, but his path to reelection faces a tough test against a challenger who supported Trump, but did not win the former president’s endorsement.
Paxton is being challenged by George P. Bush, the two-term Texas land commissioner and the last member of the Bush political dynasty – which over four generations has produced two presidents, a vice president, a senator, two governors and a congressman – as well as former judge and longtime Rep. Louie Gohmert (TX-01), who’s known as a hard core conservative, and former state Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman.
All three challengers have been running to the right of the conservative Paxton, who’s known nationally for filing the unsuccessful Texas vs. Pennsylvania case in the Supreme Court that tried to overturn now President Biden’s razor-thin win over Trump in the Keystone State, and for speaking at the then-president’s rally near the White House that immediately preceded the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by right wing extremists aiming to disrupt congressional certification of Biden’s Electoral College victory.
Over the past year Paxton’s taken the Biden Administration to court numerous times, including a lawsuit filed last week over the federal coronavirus mask mandate on interstate public transportation, including on airplanes and airports.
Paxton’s challengers have been targeting him less on his record and his polices and more on his political baggage.
Paxton was indicted on securities fraud charges soon after taking office in 2015, and more recently came under investigation by the FBI over allegations from former top staffers that he abused his office to help a wealthy donor. Paxton has denied any wrongdoing in either case.
Paxton’s trump card may be, well, Trump. The former president remains very popular and influential with Republican voters in Texas and across the country as he continues to play a kingmaker’s role in GOP primaries and repeatedly flirts with another White House run in 2024.
“An attorney general who has really led the way. Somebody who has been brave and strong,” Trump says of Paxton in a new ad from the Texas attorney general.
Paxton’s also been spotlighting his criticism of the Biden administration over the border security crisis, including during an interview last week on Fox Business.
Paxton needs to top 50% in next week’s primary to avoid a May runoff.
“I think the expectation is Paxton will get pulled into a runoff,” veteran Texas-based GOP consultant Matt Mackowiak told Fox News. “The question is how close is he to 50% and what does it mean for his ability to raise money over the succeeding two months leading into the May primary runoff.”
Mackowiak noted that “the challenge in primary runoffs is generally turnout is lower and more conservative. That could present a challenge for almost any of the other candidates because whatever Paxton’s problems are, he’s not viewed as insufficiently conservative among our electorate.”
Meanwhile, the GOP primary for governor is also heating up.
Facing multiple primary challengers from the right as he runs for reelection, GOP Gov Greg Abbott is showing off his conservative credentials.
“We are not going to allow these big-government socialists to destroy the state of Texas,” Abbott declared on the campaign trail as he bids for a third four-year term steering the nation’s second most populous and second largest state.
And taking aim at President Biden and his administration over the combustible issue of border security, Abbott emphasized to supporters at a burger joint in San Antonio on Thursday that “the great state of Texas will step up and do the government’s job… Texas is now building our own border wall.”
Abbott’s showcasing his conservative record on border security, crime, and other issues that are top-of-mind with GOP voters, and he’s reminding them that he’s backed by former President Donald Trump, as he crisscrosses the state on an extensive campaign swing amid early voting – which kicked off a week ago – ahead of the March 1 primary, which is just eight days away.
Political pundits and polls suggest that the governor should easily clear his primary hurdle and then face off in November against all-but-certain Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke – the former congressman from El Paso who came close to ousting Sen. Ted Cruz in the 2018 Senate election before unsuccessfully running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
In the gubernatorial primary, Abbott’s facing a field of seven Republican challengers, including former Texas GOP chair Allen West, a former congressman from Florida, and former state Sen. Don Huffines.
The governor’s been highlighting major conservative victories over the past year on voting and abortion restrictions that have pleased his party’s activists. And he’s also been spotlighting his efforts over the past year to beef up security at the Lone Star State’s southern border with Mexico.
As Fox News first reported earlier this month, the issue was front and center in the governor’s closing primary campaign TV commercial.
“Gov. Abbott deployed the national guard to assist law enforcement at the border. He’s given us new authority to arrest trespassers and has increased jail capacity to handle criminal arrests. Joe Biden should be securing this border, but he won’t,” Sheriff Ray Del Bosque of Zapata County, which sits along the U.S.-Mexico border south of Laredo, says in the ad.
“That’s why Gov. Abbott is getting the job done,” Sheriff Bill Waybourn of Tarrant County, which includes Fort Worth, emphasizes at the end of the spot.
The governor has praised Operation Lone Star, the effort he launched early last year, amid a surge of undocumented migrants at the nation’s southern border, to increase apprehensions of alleged criminals and seizure of illegal drugs.
But there’s been criticism of the mission from some Democrats and Republicans amid reports of suicides, poor working conditions, mismanagement and pay issues among the Texas National Guard troops sent to the border as part of the effort. West and Huffines have repeatedly blasted Abbott over his border mission as they take aim at the conservative governor from the right.
Most polls suggest Abbott has a commanding lead over his challengers and is in the driver’s seat to avoid a runoff.
“The primary challenger with the best chance to force Abbott into a runoff is former state Senator Don Huffines, who has the money and the grassroots bona fides to compete statewide,” longtime Texas-based Republican strategist Brendan Steinhauser told Fox News. “But Abbott’s $65 million war chest, high name ID, and high approval ratings will make it difficult for Huffines to pull off the upset win.”
Mackowiak also noted that Abbott “hasn’t had to play any defense. He’s done everything right, and he’s kept his focus on Beto. And the fact that he’s been able to do that should tell you a lot about where that primary race is.”
Read more at viralsant.com