U.S. Reps. Lance Gooden (R-TX-05) and Troy Nehls (R-TX-22) endorsed him, followed by Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) — who represents several of the East Texas counties where Congressman Louie Gohmert outperformed Paxton — and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick also endorsed Paxton, calling him an “ardent defender of the people’s rights.”
Even with the new support, the runoff is sure to be a cutthroat campaign between Paxton and Bush.
In the March 1 primary election, Paxton had a clear lead over his three challengers but finished the evening with 43 percent of the vote, among the least collected for incumbents.
Only a handful of incumbents at the state level seeking reelection performed worse: Rep. Phil Stephenson (R-Wharton), who received 40 percent; Rep. Art Fierro (D-El Paso) who lost to Rep. Claudia Ordaz Perez (D-El Paso); and two State Board of Education members who lost to primary challengers.
Still, the 57 percent of votes that did not go to Paxton were spread fairly evenly among the other three challengers, with Bush tallying five points ahead of Gohmert and former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman at 23 percent of the vote.
During an interview on the Mark Davis Show on the day following the election, Paxton said that he believes the only reason he’s headed to a runoff is because of Gohmert’s late entrance in the race.
“[Gohmert] got like 17 percent,” said Paxton. “Those are my voters. They would have gone my way, at least a majority of them. And I only needed seven percent of them.”
Paxton said that polling his campaign has conducted shows about two-thirds of Texas GOP voters in a “conservative” lane while the remaining third are in the “moderate” lane, and believes that more of the former will go to him while Bush will appeal more to the latter.
Following him on the next hour of the show, Davis asked Gohmert if he believed his supporters would turn around and vote for Paxton in the runoff.
“I don’t know,” said Gohmert. “There were concerns that a lot of people had and shared, so that remains to be seen. A lot of it depends on what happens in the next three months.”
The congressman said that while he would have been quick to endorse Guzman if she had made the runoff with Paxton, he was “not planning on weighing in at this point” with a recommendation between Paxton and Bush.
While Bush and Guzman traded barbs during the primary race, Gohmert focused his criticisms on Paxton, who had also gone on the offense against him.
Asked why he was hesitant about endorsing Bush, Gohmert told Davis that he shared some of the concerns about experience that Guzman had about him.
“He had his bar license inactive for 10 years,” said Gohmert. “He hasn’t spent a lot of time in the courtroom.”
Gohmert is not the only key party to hold off on giving an endorsement in the race.
While Paxton has secured endorsements from the lieutenant governor and former President Donald Trump, Gov. Greg Abbott has also not weighed in on the competition.
Asked on primary election day how he voted in the race, Abbott said, “I’m going to let the voters decide who they want to support.”
Texans for Lawsuit Reform (TLR) PAC, one of the major political groups that has supported Abbott and often provides generous financial backing to many Republican and Democratic incumbents, has also yet to weigh in on the runoff race.
The group endorsed Guzman shortly after she launched her campaign last summer and over the course of the campaign provided her with over $2.6 million in donations, many being in-kind contributions used for advertising.
“TLRPAC was proud to join with some of the most active conservative grassroots leaders and prolific Republican donors in Texas to support Eva Guzman’s campaign for Texas Attorney General in the Republican primary,” Lucy Nashed, the communications director for TLR, told The Texan.
“Eva is a deeply accomplished woman, a true bootstraps Texas success story, and a distinguished Texas judge for 22 years,” said Nashed. “We expect she still has a bright future as a Texas leader.”
About the ongoing runoff race, Nashed said, “We will make a determination about any continued role in this race in the coming weeks.”
On election night after the race was called with Paxton and Bush advancing to a runoff, Bush told reporters that he would be reaching out to the other candidates in the race seeking their support.
Asked if he would also reach out to TLR PAC, Bush said, “They’ll be one of our first calls tomorrow.”
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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.