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Embattled Texas AG Ken Paxton wins GOP primary runoff

Texans returned to the polls to finalize key races in the 2022 midterm elections.

AUSTIN, Texas (CN) — Ken Paxton successfully fended off Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush in the Republican primary runoff election for the state's attorney general's office.

With 98% of counties reporting nearly an hour after polls closed, Paxton led with 68% of the vote while Bush had snagged 32%.

Paxton, who is seeking a third term as attorney general, has been at the center of several legal troubles, including an FBI investigation and a lawsuit from the Texas bar for alleged professional misconduct. Months after assuming office in 2015, Paxton was indicted for securities fraud by a grand jury, which found he misled investors in a Dallas-area software company. The case has yet to go to a trial as it's been stretched out through spats over civil procedure.

Another ongoing legal issue for Paxton is a whistle-blower lawsuit filed by four former staffers who claimed they were fired after going to the FBI with allegations of Paxton using his office to influence a criminal investigation into campaign donor Nate Paul, a real estate investor. The incumbent has denied wrongdoing in all of his legal woes.

These scandals weighed on the mind of Charles Kruger, a voter who cast his ballot for Paxton’s opponent George P. Bush at an Austin library on Tuesday.

“I think Paxton is a total crook and I cannot believe he spoke at the January 6 rally,” said Kruger. “I am a very conservative Republican, but the guy is just a disaster and hopefully Bush can overtake him.”

In his campaign for another term as Texas’ top lawyer, Paxton has cast Bush as a “liberal” who would be soft on cultural issues and support a “woke” agenda. Paxton has also received endorsements from former President Donald Trump, Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and the Conservative Political Action Conference. 

Paxton has touted the more than 20 lawsuits he's filed against the Biden administration during his reelection bid. The lawsuits relate to issues like the federal government’s vaccine and mask mandates and immigration policies. 

The grandson of former President George H. W. Bush and nephew to former President George W. Bush, George P. Bush is the last remaining member of the political dynasty to still hold office. In a campaign video, Bush said Paxton was unfit to hold office due to his alleged corruption. Bush has made supporting law enforcement, stopping the flow of migrants crossing into Texas illegally and tackling human trafficking priorities of his campaign. 

Bush said on Twitter that the race did not go as he had planned.

“We will continue fighting for the rule of law in Texas,” wrote Bush. “I trust and pray in Governor Abbott’s ability to control the southern border and work to ensure the system of justice and respect for Texas laws are honored and maintained.”  

The Democratic primary for attorney general was also sent to a runoff when Joe Jaworski and Rochelle Garza failed to meet the 50% threshold. The race came to an end with Garza winning 61% of the vote, leaving Jaworski behind at 39%, with 98% of counties reporting.

Jaworski is a lawyer and former mayor of Galveston while Garza is a civil rights lawyer from Brownsville. Both candidates have set legalizing marijuana, increasing access to affordable health care and defending civil liberties as primary goals in their run for attorney general. Jaworski vowed to, if elected, create a civil rights division at the attorney general’s office and transform Paxton’s voter fraud division into a voter access division. Garza has set his sights on ending Governor Abbott’s border security initiative, Operation Lone Star. In addition, Garza has pledged to make consumer protection a top priority if she is elected attorney general. 

If successful, Garza would be the first woman of color to serve as attorney general in Texas.

In the race for Texas lieutenant governor, Democrat Mike Collier was selected to take on incumbent Republican Dan Patrick in November. Collier fended off his runoff opponent Michelle Beckley, beating her with 55% of the vote to her 45% with 98% of counties reporting.

Collier is an accountant and author while Beckley is a member of the Texas House of Representatives. Both Collier focused their campaigns on improving the resilience of the Texas electrical grid, giving more funding to public schools, increasing the production of clean energy to fight climate change and legalizing the recreational use of cannabis. 

During the 2021 Texas legislative session, Beckley was one of 99 Democrats from the Texas House to break quorum, blocking the Republican-controlled legislature from furthering a controversial voting bill. After returning to the state Capitol, and the passage of the bill, the representative, who serves on the House elections committee made it a priority for her campaign to uphold election integrity while increasing access to the ballot box. 

This is Collier’s second attempt to unseat Patrick. In 2018, he came within 402,789 votes of being successful. One piece of his campaign that is different from his opponent is his vision to close loopholes used by corporations to avoid paying taxes.

In the 28th Congressional District race, Henry Cuellar, a Democrat from Laredo, is fighting to maintain the seat he has held since 2005. To Cuellar’s left is immigration lawyer Jessica Cisneros, a progressive Democrat running on a platform of Medicare for all, immigration reform, codifying the right to abortion and raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour.

With 98% of counties reporting, Cuellar is leading at 53% to Cisneros’ 47%.

Relying on his years in Congress, Cuellar’s message to voters has been that he has been successful in bringing education, health care and immigration resources to South Texas. 

During the March primary, Cuellar received 50% of the vote, with Cisneros closely behind him at 45%. This is the second time Cisneros has challenged Cuellar.

Cuellar was weakened in the race after the FBI executed a raid on his Laredo home in January. The congressman said there was no wrongdoing on his part and pledged to fully cooperate with officers. Cuellar has also voted against a proposal to codify abortion rights into law, a move that garnered criticism from Cisneros and other Democrats in the state. 

Cuellar has the support of Democratic leaders such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn. However, Cisneros has cultivated support from progressives in the party including Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 

The district is also in the sights of Republicans who see this year’s midterm as the chance to flip it, following large gains in the region during the 2020 election.

Republican Cassy Garcia will face off against the Democratic nominee for the congressional seat in November. Garcia secured the nomination with 59% of the vote.

Both candidates ran on a platform of securing the southern border and bringing more jobs to the district. During the March primary, the two rose to the top of a crowded field.

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