AUSTIN (Nexstar) — As early voting for the March 1 primary kicks off, incumbent Attorney General Ken Paxton is polling below the threshold needed to avoid a runoff election.
Any candidate needs more than 50% of the vote to avoid a runoff. Earlier this week, a University of Texas/Texas Politics Project poll showed Paxton with 47% of Republican primary voters, current General Land Commissioner George P. Bush with 21%, former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman with 16% and current Congressman Louie Gohmert with 15%.
All three say Paxton’s personal legal troubles played a major factor in entering the race. Aside from his ongoing indictment on securities fraud charges, seven of Paxton’s top aides reported him to the FBI with allegations of bribery and abuse of office.
If elected, Bush said he would start working to re-establish faith in the AG’s office on day one.
“It’s partly being a Christian, showing supplication, humility, to the legislature, to the people of Texas, to other county DAs, and restoring that trust. I pride myself on my relationships, not only in the legislature, but also with county judges, and DAs and county sheriffs,” Bush said in an interview with Nexstar.
His full interview is featured near the bottom of this article.
According to the same February UT/Texas Politics Project poll, Republican primary voters said border security and immigration are the top two issues facing the state right now.
While Paxton has also made efforts to secure our southern border, Bush said it hasn’t been enough.
“He’s just suing the federal government, which is important. And we can debate basically his win-loss record, which I don’t believe is strong enough as it should be. But what he’s not doing is helping local and county officials leveraging the power of the state of Texas to backstop our local law enforcement,” Bush said.
“Instead of sending information packets, we need to send lawyers and paralegals to help our farmers and ranchers, either build Texas’ wall and or prosecute under Governor Abbott’s Executive Order with Operation Lone Star,” Bush continued.
That executive order gives DPS troopers the authority to arrest and charge migrants caught crossing on private property, but that’s overwhelming local criminal justice systems in border towns.
“Every county sheriff, and DA that I talked to, or even border troops that I interact with, they say that the state of Texas has not been legally prosecuting criminal trespassing claims quickly enough,” Bush said.
He plans to send help to speed that process up, if elected.
“I’m the only candidate in this race that’s promoting the idea of a mobile prosecution unit to deploy. It’s similar to a military deployment of deploying whatever we have here in Austin to help our border communities,” Bush said.
Guzman criticized Bush, pointing to her experience in the courtroom than Bush, but he responded, saying, “I’m the only proven executive that’s actually sued the federal government and won on behalf of the State of Texas, with proven executive experience in the private public sectors, and in the U.S. military.”
Beyond border issues, Bush said he would also fight to protect free speech, specifically for conservatives.
“I believe that the First Amendment has been manipulated for the left, but not the right. Whether it’s on college campuses, or social media, canceled culture that we’re seeing where if you are conservative, and you put out controversial thoughts, suddenly your career is done,” Bush said.
Even with the ongoing legal troubles, Paxton received former President Trump’s endorsement over the summer. Bush said Trump made the wrong decision.
“He made a mistake. I’m gonna be the better candidate to defend the America First policies. In fact, my campaign is called Texas First. And I will, unlike Ken, beat the Democrat,” Bush said.
“Ken was the lowest vote-getter of all Republicans four years ago. With bribery corruption charges [now], he’s definitely going to lose, and we can’t afford to take that risk as Republicans,” Bush continued.
“I’ll tell you what, Beto O’Rourke is raising a lot of money, and he fires up the left wing of the Democratic Party and will drive up voting turnout. And so my fear is that with bribery & corruption charges facing Ken Paxton that you’ll see him not only lose but drag down the rest of the ticket and any Republican that’s aspiring for office,” Bush said.
The last day of early voting is Feb. 25, the last day to apply for a mail-in ballot is Feb. 18, and the primary itself is on Tuesday, March 1.