Elections 2022Attorney General Ken Paxton’s Republican Challengers All Raise Over $1 Million

Each of the attorney general’s primary challengers pulled in over a million dollars by the end of 2021 as they compete to force Paxton to a runoff.
January 25, 2022
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Four years ago when Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was last on the ballot, he walked away from the March Republican primary election with 100 percent of the vote.

Four years before that, when Paxton first ran in the open seat to be the state’s top attorney, he came out on top of a primary with one of the state’s railroad commissioners and a runoff with a member of the Texas House of Representatives.

In just over a month, Paxton will face the most significant primary challenge in his career with three other widely-known candidates in Texas politics: Land Commissioner George P. Bush, former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman, and Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-TX-01).

The first financial reports to be released since the list of candidates were finalized for the ballot corroborate the viability of each of the candidates, as all raised over a million dollars in the period between July 1, 2021 and December 31, 2021 — more than any of the Democrats vying for the nomination.

Having been in the position for nearly two full terms, Paxton’s war chest is still the largest out of any candidate with $7.5 million cash-on-hand.

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Becoming available a day past the due date, Paxton’s finance report showed that he raised $2.8 million and spent $2.1 million.

Over half of his expenditures — $1.3 million — was spent on direct mail. Of note, another $153,000 was spent on “campaign advertising services” and $130,000 was listed for “legal fees.”

Citing contributions from “ more than 5,000 grassroots conservative donors” with about half giving to Paxton for the first time, his campaign stated, “With these dominant fundraising numbers and the groundswell of grassroots support behind him, it’s clear Ken Paxton’s campaign has both tremendous enthusiasm and financial advantages over his challengers in the primary.”

“As the stakes get even higher moving forward, there is no question that Ken Paxton is the only candidate positioned to defeat the radical left’s candidate in November,” said Paxton’s campaign in a press release.

Though Paxton’s war chest is the largest, the candidate to receive the most contributions for the period was Guzman.

Backed by the powerful Texans for Lawsuit Reform (TLR) PAC, Guzman reported a haul of $3.7 million.

The majority of her contributions came from a handful of wealthy donors.

TLR PAC topped the list of contributors to Guzman’s campaign with a total of $626,000 listed. Richard Weekley, the chairman of the board of directors for TLR, contributed another $500,000, and another board member, Alan Hassenflu, contributed $250,000.

Guzman also reported receiving $500,000 from Harlan Crow, $500,000 from Robert Rowling, and $250,000 from Jan Duncan.

Advertising accounted for a large portion of the $2.6 million Guzman reported spending, with $1.2 million on media buys, a combined $555,000 on printing and postage for direct mail, and another $269,000 listed for political advertising.

Bush, who was the first challenger to jump in the race, reported raising $1.9 million, bringing him to a total of $3.2 million cash-on-hand at the beginning of January, the second-largest war chest behind Paxton.

“We have a good number of cash-on-hand, but the real factor in this campaign that’s different is the ‘Texas First Tour’ that we’re putting together,” Bush told The Texan at a meet-and-greet in Round Rock.

“We’ve got about 20 events lined up over the course of the next three weeks leading up to early voting, and then we have two weeks of early voting,” said Bush.

The focus on a more event-oriented ground game was reflected in Bush’s campaign expenditures as well. While $132,000 was categorized for consulting expenses and $154,000 was for advertising, $635,000 of the $1.8 million total expenditures went toward salaries for campaign employees and contractors.

Gohmert, the last candidate to enter the race who joined partway through the candidate filing period in November, also put more expenditures toward grassroots campaigning.

The East Texas congressman spent far less than the other candidates with only $126,000 in total expenditures. Of that, over half — $65,000 — was listed for the “purchase of campaign vehicle,” and another $32,000 was used for “yard signs/stakes.”

Gohmert’s total fundraising haul for the period tallied to slightly above $1 million, his target goal when he announced he was considering a bid for the position.

The congressman stated that he had reached that goal when he launched the campaign in November, and after criticism for his report listing several large contributions after that date, Gohmert reiterated that his campaign spent the initial period “getting both contributions and commitments, and we did reach our goal.”

Over half of Gohmert’s receipts came from two sources: $300,000 from Rep. Mayes Middleton (R-Wallisville) and $250,000 from Rep. Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth), who had launched a Middleton-funded challenge against Paxton but withdrew when Gohmert entered the race.

Asked about his support from state legislators, Gohmert told The Texan, “There are a lot of lawmakers that aren’t happy with what he’s been doing.”

“He makes a nice show, but they also know that he has had major distractions with his personal life,” said Gohmert, alluding to the allegations that Paxton used his position to benefit an Austin real estate developer who hired a woman with whom Paxton had an affair. “Just like King David, it was the crimes that followed the indiscretion that were the big problem.” 

The controversy, which came to light in 2020 after several senior aides in the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) raised the allegations, has been a focal point of campaigns against Paxton.

Bush, for instance, claimed that Paxton “misled” Donald Trump when seeking an endorsement, referring to the ongoing investigation about the aides’ allegations.

Paxton has brushed aside the charges, contending that Trump — who endorsed him over the other candidates last summer — “knows better than anyone about sham investigations.”

With the incumbency advantage, the hope from Paxton’s challengers is that they can perform well enough in the GOP primary to force the attorney general into a runoff.

If Paxton receives less than 50 percent of the vote in the March 1 election, the top two candidates will advance to a runoff to be held in May.

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Daniel Friend

Daniel Friend is the Marketing and Media Manager for The Texan. After graduating with a double-major in Political Science and Humanities, he wrote for The Texan as a reporter through June 2022. In his spare time, you're likely to find him working on The Testimony of Calvin Lewis, an Abolition of Man-inspired novel and theatrical podcast.