Paxton heads to runoff in Texas GOP attorney general primary

The race for the Republican attorney general nomination in Texas is heading to a runoff.

Incumbent Attorney General Ken Paxton did not crack 50 percent of the vote in Tuesday's primary, meaning he'll have to face off again with whichever candidate comes in second place. At the moment, state Land Commissioner George P. Bush is currently trailing the closest behind Paxton. 

The other Republican candidates include former state Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman, who's currently in third place, and Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas).

The outcome wasn’t entirely unexpected. While polling has shown Paxton in the lead, he has been below the 50-percent mark. A February University of Texas at Tyler/Dallas Morning News poll showed Paxton leading Bush, 39 percent to 25 percent, while Guzman and Gohmert trailed in third and fourth place, notching 13 percent and 7 percent support, respectively.

Paxton also acknowledged the possibility of a runoff against Bush in advance of the primary, saying last month that he is either “gonna win outright or I’m gonna have a runoff with George P.”

Paxton is also expected to face relentless attacks — from both Bush and Democrats — over a host of legal and ethical issues, including an indictment in state court for securities fraud and allegations of bribery and abuse of office. 

While Paxton could still very well clinch the nomination in the runoff, the primary was also seen as a test of the strength of former President Donald Trump’s endorsement. Trump backed Paxton last year, passing over the other candidates who have also sought to portray themselves as staunch allies of the former president.

But Bush’s success in denying Paxton an outright win could raise further questions about just how far Trump’s endorsement goes in a Republican primary fight. 

“You’ve seen the ability of non-Trump-chosen candidates to still find a space or a place,” one Texas Republican strategist said. “And with Paxton, you haven’t seen him wholly poll away from the field enough to avoid a runoff.”

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