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2022 Elections

Both runoffs for Texas attorney general target Ken Paxton

Following his hearing, Ken Paxton, Texas attorney general, makes his way to a small rally in front of the Supreme Court of the United States in Washington, DC, Monday, November 1, 2021. The Supreme Court of the United States agreed to review a controversial Texas abortion law but refused to block the law while it examines the state's unusual enforcement scheme and whether the Department of Justice has the right to sue to block the law. Credit: Rod Lamkey / CNP/Sipa USANo Use Germany.
CNP/Rod Lamkey
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CNP/Sipa USA via Re
Following his hearing, Ken Paxton, Texas attorney general, makes his way to a small rally in front of the Supreme Court of the United States in Washington, DC, Monday, November 1, 2021. The Supreme Court of the United States agreed to review a controversial Texas abortion law but refused to block the law while it examines the state's unusual enforcement scheme and whether the Department of Justice has the right to sue to block the law. Credit: Rod Lamkey / CNP/Sipa USANo Use Germany.

Texas primary runoff day is May 24. The big race for both parties is for Texas attorney general. With a vulnerable Paxton on the November ballot, Democrats see this as a chance to win a key battle in the culture war.

The two major political parties have yet to finalize many of their nominations for the November general election, and later this month Texans settle that by voting in the primary runoff elections. At the top of the ballot for both Democrats and Republicans is the attorney general question.

On primary night, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton addressed his supporters with a bitter-sweet message.

“It looks like I am right now double my closest opponent, George P. Bush,” he said.

Paxton was letting the watch party crowd know he’s going to need their help again to get reelected because that night he failed to clinch the GOP nomination.

“And I guess what I'd say is clearly to the establishment: They got what they wanted. They got me in a runoff,” he said.

Paxton ended up with 43% of the primary vote and Land Commissioner George P. Bush took in 23%. Now the two Republicans go head-to-head. Bush is looking to knock out Paxton by highlighting his multiple scandals and weak performance in the past election.

“This campaign is about good government — making sure we don't have indicted felons serving at the top of the chain of command of our law enforcement officials here in Texas. It's about making sure we have somebody who is above reproach, who puts the interests of Texans first rather than the interests of self and somebody who's not going to be perp walked for the second time in as many terms,” Bush told TPR.

Paxton is reportedly under an FBI investigation for abuse of office, and in a separate case he is indicted on securities fraud charges. Also the Texas Bar Association was investigating and now suing Paxton for professional misconduct. He could be disbarred for his attempts to have President Joe Biden's election win overturned.

“It's an embarrassment to the party. It's an embarrassment to the state. And it's time that we clean up government in the halls of our halls of power here in Texas,” Bush said.

Paxton’s campaign didn’t respond to TPR's requests for comment. Bush said that’s in character for Paxton, who will only speak to friendly rightwing media outlets. And he won’t show up for political debates.

“I challenged him to 10 debates since March 1, he has refused to accept an invitation from any media publication,” Bush added.

He pointed that four years ago Paxton was narrowly reelected to a second term by a 3.5% margin of victory. And Bush said this election the Democrats could beat the scandal-plagued Paxton especially since he refuses to campaign outside of his comfort zone.

But which Democrat gets on the ballot to possibly defeat Paxton? That’s also a question to be settled in the May 24 runoff.

“This is a really critical race at a really critical moment,” said Rochelle Garza, who won the most votes in the Democrats’ March 1 primary. The civil rights attorney said if Democrats are able to seize the opportunity and win the attorney general’s office, it would deal a significant blow to the Republican Party’s culture war; especially when it comes to abortion rights.

“I'm running for this office to stand up for the people of Texas, for families, and to fight for reproductive justice. I just had a baby girl six weeks ago, and I do not want her to grow up in a state where she does not deserve the same rights over her body that I enjoy,” Garza said.

She won 43% of the vote primary night, and Joe Jaworski, a former mayor of Galveston, came in second with 20%.

“If you appreciate individual rights, then you have to start voting now like never before. This is where the Texas attorney general comes in. Somebody needs to replace Ken Paxton, who is hostile to voter access,” Jaworski said.

Both Garza and Jaworski said a lot is on the line, and Democrats need to focus on winning the AG race in November. But they both want to be the candidate to do that.

“Having a Democrat as the attorney general of Texas would be a game changer for Texas,” Garza said.

“Right now, we have a Texas legislature and governor that will gleefully ban abortion in Texas. What that says to me is elections matter more than ever,” Jaworki said.

Bush said this is why he’s running for attorney general against Paxton; to prevent Democrats from winning this important office.

“So right now Paxton is underwater against a hypothetical Democrat, regardless if it's Joe or Rochelle. And now with bribery, corruption charges and an extramarital affair, I guarantee you he loses to the Democrats,” said Bush.

Early voting for the runoffs is May 16 through the 20. Runoff day is May 24.
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