Incumbent Ken Paxton defeated George P. Bush in the May 24 Republican Party primary runoff for Texas attorney general. In the March 1 primary, Paxton received 42.7% of the vote, while Bush received 22.4%. Both candidates advanced to a runoff because no candidate received more than 50% of the vote.
Paxton was first elected Attorney General in 2014. He ran unchallenged in the Republican primary in 2018 and subsequently defeated Justin Nelson (D) in the general election, winning 50.6% of the vote to Nelson’s 47.0%. In June 2021, former President Donald Trump (R) endorsed Paxton’s re-election. In a statement, Paxton said, “As the values conservative endorsed by President Trump, I am proud of my record standing up to and defeating the Biden Administration – repeatedly. I stand by my record and values, and ask each voter to join President Trump in standing with me for a safer and stronger Texas.”
Paxton ran on his record as attorney general—a record he said includes challenging the Biden administration in court and guarding religious freedom. In the March 1 primary, Paxton’s competitors—including Bush, as well as Eva Guzman and Louie Gohmert, who lost in the primary—said allegations that Paxton engaged in criminal misconduct made him unfit for office. In 2015, Paxton was indicted on three counts related to securities fraud violations. The case is still open, and no trial has been scheduled. In 2020, the FBI opened an investigation into claims that Paxton used the Office of the Attorney General to benefit a political donor. Paxton denied wrongdoing in both cases.
Bush is the Texas land commissioner, a position to which he was first elected in 2014. Bush said that as attorney general, he would secure the border, support law enforcement, jail human traffickers, and restore integrity to the office. He said he was running because “Texans deserve a top advocate that’s above reproach, not under indictment, focused on the job, going to defend our state against federal overreach, but also take on progressive mayors that are doing everything, for example, here in Austin, such as defunding the police.”
According to The Texas Tribune’s James Barragán, “None of Bush’s attacks [against Paxton] gained traction with socially conservative voters in the runoff, who said they preferred Paxton’s combative style to Bush’s more civil and polished approach. Voters cited Paxton’s frequent lawsuits against the Biden administration on immigration and COVID-19 policies, as well as his efforts on hot-button social issues like abortion and LGBTQ rights.”
The attorney general is an executive office that serves as the chief legal advisor and chief law enforcement officer for the state government and is empowered to prosecute violations of state law, represent the state in legal disputes and issue legal advice to state agencies and the legislature. In most states, the attorney general has a substantial influence on a state’s approach to law enforcement.
Paxton will face Rochelle Garza (D) and Joe Jaworski (L) in the general election.
Texas has had a Republican attorney general since 1999.