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Texas Primary: Attorney General Ken Paxton forced into runoff with George P. Bush

Republican Governor Greg Abbott and Democrat Beto O’Rourke win big in governor primaries, setting up November clash

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

AUSTIN (CFP) — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, facing criminal charges and an FBI investigation triggered by his own former aides, will now also have to survive a Republican runoff to keep his job after failing to capture a majority in Tuesday’s primary in his bid for a third term.

Ken Paxton and George P. Bush

His opponent in the May runoff will be Land Commissioner George P. Bush, setting up a high-voltage contest between one of Donald Trump’s most vocal supporters and a scion of a Texas political family known for holding the former president in minimum high regard.

Tuesday’s primary also set up, as expected, a high-profile November match-up between Republican Governor Greg Abbott and Democrat Beto O’Rourke, both of whom easily won their party’s primaries.

Republican Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller also survived a primary challenge, defeating State Rep. James White with 59% of the vote, enough to avoid a runoff.

Miller had run into political headwinds after a series of battles with state legislators and the indictment of a former campaign consultant on bribery charges related to hemp licenses overseen by his office.

Republican Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick also won renomination and will now face the winner of a Democratic runoff between Mike Collier, a former oil company executive from Georgetown who lost to Patrick by 5 points in 2018, and State Rep. Michelle Beckley from Carrollton.

Despite his legal and ethical problems, Paxton finished first among Republicans, buoyed by the endorsement of Donald Trump; Paxton had been a vocal supporter of Trump’s legal fights to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.

Paxton received 42% of the primary vote, compared to 22% for Bush, the son of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and nephew of former Texas governor and President George W. Bush. Former state Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman came in third at 18%.

Tuesday’s primary ended, for the moment, the political career of U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, the controversial pro-Trump conservative voice who gave up his safe House seat to parachute into the attorney general’s race, where he got just 17% of the vote.

Paxton is under indictment for securities fraud and is also under investigation by the FBI after former top aides in his office accused him of bribery. They are also suing him after he fired them.

Trump, who has endorsed Paxton, has had a frosty relationship with the Bush family, particularly George P. Bush’s father, Jeb Bush, whom he defeated in the 2016 Republican presidential race.

However, George P. Bush has taken a different line from much of his family, casting himself as a Trump supporter in an effort to avoid fallout from his family name.

Democrats will also have a runoff for attorney general between Rochelle Garza, an immigration lawyer and former ACLU staff attorney from Brownsville, and former Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski.

Paxton’s primary opponents have argued that given the ethical clouds that surround him, his nomination would risk losing the seat to Democrats in November.

No Democrat has won a statewide office in Texas since 1994.

In the governor’s race, Abbott will be seeking a third term against O’Rourke, a former congressman from El Paso who lost a close race for U.S. Senate in 2018 and then made an early exit from the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination after failing to gain traction.

Abbott had been challenged from the right by former State Senator Don Huffines and Allen West, who resigned as state GOP chair to run for governor. Both had criticized Abbott for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Trump’s early endorsement of the governor took the wind out of their anti-establishment campaigns.

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