“Fake news [New York Times] strikes again! Let me be clear: I support [Abbott]! He’s a great Governor and a Great Texan,” Paxton tweeted Tuesday morning.
Elaina Plott, the author of the piece, replied to Paxton that she has a recording of him declining to back Abbott.
“Hi AG Paxton, during our interview, which is on tape, you would not commit to supporting Abbott in his primary for governor,” Plott tweeted, though Paxton did not deny making the comment.
In the article, The New York Times analyzed various conflicts within the Republican Party of Texas and suggested that the party has “turned on itself.”
The piece included references to many Republican state legislatures as “test kitchens for Republican hyperpartisanship,” and said that after former Gov. Rick Perry ran for president, he “seemed to recede into an exhausting caricature of himself.”
Plott quoted Paxton as she was discussing election integrity legislation and his lawsuit against the states of Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin over their administration of the 2020 presidential election. She also discussed Abbott’s coronavirus-related restrictions and quoted Paxton saying he wished Abbott had reopened Texas “a little bit earlier” than he did.
“The way this typically works in a primary, is it’s kind of everybody running their own race,” Paxton said, according to The Times. “I don’t think he supports me; I don’t support him.”
The Texan sought to verify the accuracy of the quote, but did not hear back from Paxton’s office by the time of publication. However, a spokesman for Paxton reportedly said the comments were taken out of context.
“What the Attorney General said was that typically, when running primary campaigns, candidates run their own races and do not get involved in other races,” Ian Prior told The Texas Tribune. “This is not a unique concept.”
Chad Prather, a conservative humorist from Fort Worth, announced in March that he is challenging Abbott in the Republican primary.
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller and Republican Party of Texas Chair Allen West are reportedly considering challenging Abbott. Democrat Beto O’Rourke is also considering a run for the governor’s mansion. Additionally, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush said last month he is “seriously considering a run for attorney general.”
According to a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll conducted April 16-22, 43 percent of registered Texas voters strongly approved or somewhat approved of Abbott’s job performance. Meanwhile, 45 percent strongly disapproved or somewhat disapproved. 13 percent offered no opinion, with a margin of error of give or take 2.83 percentage points. Among Republican registered voters, Abbott’s approval rating was 77 percent, with 13 percent disapproving of his job performance and 10 percent offering no opinion.
Voters in general were less opinionated about Paxton, and he was less popular than Abbott among Republicans. Per the same poll, 32 percent of registered voters approved of Paxton’s job performance, 36 percent disapproved, and 31 percent offered no opinion. 59 percent of Republican registered voters approved of Paxton, while 11 percent disapproved and 30 percent offered no opinion.
The Texan has reached out to Abbott’s office for comment.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Bush is considering a run for governor. He is considering a run for attorney general.
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Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."