As of the time of publication, unofficial election results showed that Paxton received around 43 percent of the vote, while Bush trailed with a little over 20 percent.
Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-TX-01) finished last, but former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman ran close behind Bush.
As the early voting results began to come in on Tuesday night, Guzman started out with a lead ahead of Bush.
“This is a dead heat right now,” Bush told reporters at a watch party in Austin around 9:00 PM. “But the good news is, for the people of Texas, Ken Paxton is going to a runoff, so the indicted felon will have to answer to voters for the next three months.”
Meanwhile, at a watch party in McKinney with his wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton (R-McKinney), the attorney general brushed off his lack of an outright win.
“Clearly, the establishment, they got what they wanted, they got me in a runoff,” he told the crowd in the room.
“I would say that all Republicans—Trump supporters, Tea Party, mainstream Republicans—are speaking clearly tonight in all parts of our state,” Bush responded to the comment. “He is going to divert attention away from his legal problems and his personal challenges that he faces.”
“He can talk all he wants, but we’re gonna have three months to have this debate if he dares leave his basement,” said Bush.
While Paxton’s Republican opponents criticized him on an array of matters, the most significant issue at play in the GOP primary was the ongoing whistleblower controversy at the Office of the Attorney General (OAG).
In the fall of 2020, several of Paxton’s senior aides raised allegations of criminal misconduct against their boss and were subsequently fired or resigned from their positions.
Since then, four of the aides brought a lawsuit under the Texas Whistleblower Act against Paxton and the OAG, though the case has yet to move forward in court on their core arguments. The Texas Supreme Court is currently weighing arguments from the OAG that as an elected official, Paxton is shielded from lawsuits under the Whistleblower Act, something the district and appellate courts both ruled against.
Amid the controversy and well-known opponents, Paxton’s reelection bid was the most intense primary that he has faced yet.
During the summer of 2021, both Paxton and Bush courted former President Donald Trump for his endorsement in the race. Although both candidates expressed optimism about Trump’s support as the former president gave kind words to both, the endorsement ultimately went to Paxton.
Trump reiterated his endorsement of Paxton at a rally in Conroe in January, but also praised Gohmert, who was in attendance, calling him a “wonderful guy” who “has been a friend of mine from day one.”
Though Paxton maintained a clear lead in polling that was published throughout the campaign season, it was unclear whether or not he would secure enough of the vote to stave off another election in May.
But by Tuesday night, Paxton’s three opponents accumulated enough of the vote to draw the primary challenge out a few more months.
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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.