Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, weakened by legal problems and allegations of official misconduct, finished first in Tuesday’s GOP primary but was denied outright victory, pushing him into a runoff against George P. Bush.
With almost three-fourths of the state’s precincts reporting, Paxton had about 43% of the vote, sending the two-term incumbent into a May 24 runoff against Bush, the Texas land commissioner who had 22% of the vote.
Election results:See the 2022 Texas Primary Election results
Former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman and US Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler, fell short in the four-way primary.
Speaking to supporters at an election party in McKinney, Paxton looked on the bright side, noting that he had amassed almost twice as many votes as his nearest competitor.
“This is nothing new for me. I was in a runoff eight years ago against a guy who was supported by the exact same people,” Paxton said, labeling Bush as the “establishment” candidate — a line of attack he expects to continue in the coming weeks.
“May 24 is not that far away. Tomorrow, we start zero-zero,” Paxton said Tuesday night. “If you want to be part of saving Texas and saving this country, we’re going to have to fight the fight for the next 2½ months, get our vote back out, unite conservatives and let’s go win this in May.”
All three challengers entered the primary assuming that Paxton was politically damaged after eight top lieutenants accused him of accepting bribes and engaging in other forms of misconduct to help a friend and political donor, Austin real estate investor Nate Paul.
An FBI investigation based on the 2020 allegations has been under way for more than a year, and Paxton has faced felony charges of securities fraud since 2015 related to private business deals.
Speaking from an election-watching party in Austin, Bush said he expected Paxton’s legal trouble to continue to be a campaign focus heading to the runoff.
“Only one in three Republicans know that Ken Paxton is facing three felony counts in Houston court and facing an FBI investigation looking into bribery and corruption, so part of that is on me,” he told reporters Tuesday night. “I’m going to have to educate the public on this issue, but I’m also going to remind the public why they need to hire me.”
“But the good news is for people in Texas, Ken Paxton is going to run off, so the indicted felon will have to answer voters,” Bush said.
Meantime, the Democratic race for attorney general appeared to be headed to a runoff as well.
With 95% of precincts reporting, Rochelle Garza, a Brownsville lawyer and former staff attorney for the ACLU of Texas, was leading the pack with 43% of the vote.
Less than 3,000 votes separated the next two candidates — former Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski, grandson of Watergate special prosecutor Leon Jaworski, was running second with 19.6%, while Lee Merritt, a prominent civil rights attorney from Dallas, had 19.3%.
Mike Fields, a Harris County Court-at-Law judge for 20 years before retiring in 2018, had 12%. S. “T-Bone” Raynor, a Dallas lawyer who did not actively campaign, had 5%.
Staff writer Victoria Duff contributed to this report
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism