AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Republican Matt Krause, a longtime ally of embattled Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, said Thursday he is joining the growing ranks of candidates who will challenge him for his job in 2022.
Paxton is seeking a third term under the cloud of an FBI investigation, set off by an extraordinary revolt by his top deputies last year, and is still awaiting trial on felony securities fraud charges. Republicans George P. Bush and Eva Guzman, a former Texas Supreme Court justice, have already launched GOP primary challenges against Paxton.
Krause is a Texas state representative who has previously supported Paxton. A member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, Krause said he saw an opening in the field and said the upheaval in Paxton’s office raises questions about his ability to focus on the job.
“I’ve been a supporter in the past, but new information, new developments have caused me to even consider getting into this race,” Krause said.
Paxton has broadly denied accusations by his former staff that he abused his office to benefit a wealthy donor. Separately, Paxton was indicted in 2015 on charges of defrauding investors in a tech startup and has pleaded not guilty. He is still awaiting trial in that case, which has been stalled for years.
“That’s what really kind of concerned me. And that’s when we started saying, ‘hey, do we need to look for another candidate for the next time the AG spot is open?'” Krause said.
Krause said his background as a constitutional lawyer and conservative record in the legislature primes him for the office of Attorney General.
“If you look on mostly every conservative issue that’s come in front of the House — whether it’s pro-life, whether it’s religious liberty, Second Amendment, securing the border — I’ve been at the forefront leading the fight in each of those ways,” he said.
Political analysts anticipate the AG’s race will be one of the most-watched in 2022. Not just because of Paxton’s looming legal troubles, but also due to some of the players involved.
George P. Bush, nephew of former President George W. Bush and son of Jeb Bush, is fighting to preserve his family’s legacy. Although P. Bush currently serves as the land commissioner for Texas, analysts say it is in his blood to go for higher office.
“One thing about the Bush name is it’s a name that’s associated with higher office — governor, president, vice president, these sorts of things. So for George P. Bush, what he’s trying to do is follow that model,” said Brian Smith, a politics professor at St. Edwards University. “That’s why he’s leaving his current position and trying to move up the ladder.”
P. Bush’s father, Jeb Bush, was the target of then-candidate Donald Trump’s attacks during the 2015 Republican presidential primaries. Despite this, George P. still fought for the Trump endorsement, still seen as an invaluable win during GOP primary elections. Trump ultimately handed his endorsement to Paxton.
“So now George P. Bush has to think, ‘how do I present myself as a conservative candidate without Donald Trump’s endorsement, and without going too far to the right…’ so it’ll be interesting to see how he keeps his campaign,” Smith said.
Smith said he is expecting Krause and Paxton to battle for winning over the core Republican base.
“I think for Krause and Paxton we’re going to see a race to see who can be more conservative. And for George P. Bush, this might be a good thing because if they actually do move too far right, then that opens some space up for Bush to move a little more to the right and grab some of those voters,” he said. “Krause is hoping for runoff. George P. Bush is hoping to win outright. Paxton and is hoping not to get the indictment turned into a conviction.”
Dallas civil rights attorney Lee Merritt, who has represented the families of Black people killed by police, is also running against Paxton as a Democrat. Former Galveston mayor and mediator, Joe Jaworski, is also running as a Democrat.