AUSTIN (Nexstar) — In the home stretch to the March 1 primary election, all eyes are on the crowded race for Texas’ attorney general.
New polling this week from The Hill/Emerson College shows incumbent Ken Paxton leading the Republican primary field. Paxton’s 43% support in the poll is below the 50% needed to avoid a runoff.
While the office has been held by a Republican for decades, Democrats feel hopeful about the possibility of flipping the seat blue if Paxton is the nominee. The incumbent’s tenure has a cloud of legal troubles weighing overhead.
Both of Paxton’s Republican and Democratic opponents have often cited an outstanding indictment against him as well as an ongoing FBI investigation into allegations of abuse of office. But those legal issues don’t seem to matter to most primary voters.
In the poll, 41% of Republican primary voters said Paxton’s legal issues have no impact on their likelihood of voting for him, while 23% said the accusations actually made them more likely to vote for him. A quarter of voters said the legal issues make them less likely to vote for Paxton.
Meet the Republicans
This list is the people currently certified by the Secretary of State to appear on the primary ballot, in the order they appear on the state’s website.
George P. Bush
The current land commissioner of Texas has been campaigning on restoring credibility in the Attorney General’s office, which he said has been lost during Paxton’s tenure. Bush — the nephew of former President George W. Bush and grandson of former President George H.W. Bush — was the first challenger to announce his bid.
The border has been another central focus of Bush’s campaign, promising to finish Trump’s border wall and deploy legal teams to help prosecute more migrants. While Paxton has also made efforts to secure our southern border, Bush said it hasn’t been enough.
U.S. Representative Louie Gohmert was the last Republican to throw his hat in the ring, making his announcement in November. While Gohmert has tried to tie himself to former President Donald Trump, he did not receive the official endorsement.
Gohmert has been positioning himself as the best conservative alternative to Paxton, arguing re-electing someone with ongoing legal issues will hand over the election to Democrats in November. He also has been touting his experience in Congress and promises to be tough on the border, specifically keeping migrants out of Texas.
Former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman has focused her messaging as being the most qualified candidate to be the state’s top lawyer.
As a daughter of Hispanic immigrants who came to the U.S. legally, Guzman’s campaign advertisements have focused on this being a top issue for her. She often uses her unique family history as a launching point for the issues she cares about; her father was killed by an undocumented immigrant who was never brought to justice, making prosecuting felonies committed by undocumented immigrants a keynote of her border policy plan.
Incumbent Ken Paxton has been Texas’ chief lawyer since 2015. His campaign has avoided talking about his ongoing legal issues and focuses on highlighting his performance as Attorney General. He received the coveted Trump endorsement early on, which polling shows still has strong weight with Republican primary voters.
Paxton has taken then-Attorney General Greg Abbott’s famous “wake up and sue the federal government” approach since President Joe Biden was inaugurated. Paxton has sued the Biden administration more than 20 times and promises GOP voters that he will continue to do so if re-elected. Like all the others, his platform has also largely focused on border security.
Meet the Democrats running
Again, this list is the people currently certified by the Secretary of State to appear on the primary ballot, in the order they appear on the state’s website.
Mike Fields is a former Republican-turned-Democrat who jumped in the race largely after the state’s near grid collapse during the 2021 February winter storm, saying not enough was done to hold leaders accountable.
A former judge, Fields says he would roll back some of Paxton’s lawsuits against the Biden administration and prioritize protecting voting rights, reproductive rights and the LGBTQ+ community.
Rochelle Garza, a civil rights attorney, is currently leading polling for the Democrats — but is still shy of the 50% threshold needed to avoid a runoff.
Garza has touted a case she won before the U.S. Supreme Court, after defending a teenage migrant who was denied abortion access at an immigration detention center in Texas. She has also focused her campaign messaging as being someone who deeply understands Texas working families and the issues they care about, like healthcare.
Polling in second is Joe Jaworski, who has touted his three decades of experience as a trial lawyer as reasons why Texans should elect him to be the state’s top lawyer.
Jaworski has focused his campaign on returning the office to that of a consumer protection focus, rather than being the foe of the federal government. On the issue of the border, the former mayor of Galveston says he will utilize third-year law students at Texas universities to help address the backlog of asylum claims.
Civil rights attorney Lee Merrit is hoping his national profile will help him earn the Democratic nomination. Merritt has worked on high-profile cases, including representing the family of Ahmaud Arbery — who was murdered by three men in Georgia in 2020. Merrit has earned endorsements from the likes of U.S. Sen. Bernie Senators of Vermont.
Merritt said as attorney general, protecting voting rights would be a top priority.
S. “TBone” Raynor
Aside from being listed as a candidate on the Texas Secretary of State website, Raynor does not appear to have an official campaign website or official social media channels.