Paxton’s victory marks an end to the challenge from Land Commissioner George P. Bush, who formally launched his campaign to be the state’s top attorney last June after months of rumors about a run.
The GOP race to lead the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) was one of the most competitive statewide primaries, with each of the four candidates in the race raising over $1 million in their bids.
Much of the focus was on the cloud of controversy covering the OAG after several top appointees under Paxton raised allegations of abuse of office and bribery in the fall of 2020 — an issue that will likely go on to define the general election race for the position.
Paxton has denied wrongdoing, claiming that the official actions he is accused of taking to benefit a particular Austin real estate developer were legitimate policy decisions.
In ongoing litigation before the Texas Supreme Court, the OAG has argued that officeholders such as Paxton are immune from challenges under the Texas Whistleblower Act.
The Supreme Court — which included Justice Eva Guzman before she resigned to challenge Paxton for the seat — has yet to weigh in on the issue.
Another of Paxton’s primary opponents, Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-TX-01), expressed concerns on the campaign trail that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) would wait to take action on their reported investigation of Paxton until after the primary or runoff election.
Should that happen, the Texas election code does not provide any mechanism for Republicans to replace Paxton with a different candidate on the November ballot.
But any such action from the FBI near an important election would undoubtedly be met with heightened criticism about possible political motivations.
Despite the allegations raised against him and his three well-funded GOP challengers who campaigned on those accusations, Republican primary voters in the Lone Star State showed their support for Paxton at the polls.
Paxton’s win is also a victory for former President Donald Trump, who endorsed the attorney general in his reelection bid last summer.
Both Paxton and Bush — the only candidates in the race at the time — courted Trump for his endorsement, with the land commissioner even going so far as to print out beer koozies with a quote from the former president: “This is the only Bush that likes me! This is the Bush that got it right. I like him.”
Trump gave his “complete and total endorsement” to Paxton — something that he reiterated on election day — though he never criticized Bush.
Still, Bush’s name was spurned by many Texas Republican voters.
In a late March poll published by the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation, of the 40 percent of likely GOP voters who said they would never vote for Bush, two-thirds attributed their reasoning to the fact that “he is a member of the Bush family.”
Paxton took advantage of the disdain for the Bush name early on in the runoff, sending out a campaign email that said, “We have a real opportunity to end the Bush dynasty in Texas come May.”
For the time being, the “Bush dynasty” will meet its end, as after Bush finishes his term as land commissioner no other member of the family will be holding office.
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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.