Will Trump’s nod be enough for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton?

MIDLAND, Texas – The many political loopholes facing Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton, look likely to make his bid for a third term critical.

There is an indictment in state court for securities fraud. Allegations of bribery and corruption. Senior assistants become whistleblowers. A federal investigation is underway.

Overall, it was enough to attract major challenges from three major figures in Republican Texas politics: George P. Bush, Texas land commissioner and grandson of former President George HW Bush; Representative Louie Gohmert, outspoken congressman for East Texas; and Eva Guzman, a former Texas Supreme Court justice.

But whether Mr. Paxton can survive the Republican primaries may be the greatest test of power still held by voters of a better-known name: Donald J. Trump.

Mr. Paxton has positioned himself as the man with the closest ties to Mr. Trump in an area where opponents expect to claim close ties to the former president. Texas Attorney General unsuccessful lawsuits to overturn the results of the 2020 election in several states and speaking at Mr. Trump’s “Stop Theft” rally in Washington on January 6, 2021.

For his efforts, Mr. Paxton won Trump’s endorsement last year, and he played a speaking role at last month’s large Republican rally north of Houston.

“A real attorney general led the way, a brave and strong man: Ken Paxton,” Trump said during a rally at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds. “Ken, brave and strong. And popular. ”

Well, not that common.

While voting better than any of his opponents, Mr Paxton is facing an increasingly likely prospect of ending up in a vote after Tuesday’s primaries. He’s been below the 50 percent threshold in recent public polls, and his campaign is gearing up for another contest.

That left three challengers vying for second place. They have toured the state, appearing on Republican forums and debates organized by local party groups. A common theme is that Mr. Paxton is so excited he could actually lose to a Democrat in November – a prospect that chills Texas Republicans, who have not lost the all-round race. state since 1994.

“For example, when you look at people like the AOC, who come to Texas and say Texas is going green – well, she’s right if we put the wrong people in the party,” Mr. interview, referring to Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

The race for attorney general has become a referendum on the future of the Republican Party in Texas, with various centers of power – remnants of the Bush political dynasty in Texas, elites Business reform, the Trump-no-Trump descendant wing – lined up at different angles.

In the waning days of the campaign, the attacks flew freely. Mr. Paxton traded barbs with Mr. Gohmert. Mr. Bush and Ms. Guzman followed each other. But many voters, even those dedicated enough to appear on candidate forums, are familiar with challengers at a glance. And the accusations against Mr. Paxton are not a new development; he overcame them for many years.

Mr. Paxton, who declined an interview request, was faced with State charged with felony securities fraud since 2015stemming from his time as a member of the Texas House, in which, prosecutors said he directed investments in a company without disclosure, he will be compensated for doing so. Mr Paxton has denied the charges and said the prosecution was politically motivated, and successfully delayed the trial. amid procedural controversies over where it should take place.

He was re-elected in 2018 by less than 4 percentage points, a narrow margin in the Texas general election.

Then, in 2020, some of Mr. Paxton’s top aides – senior attorneys in the attorney general’s office with conservative credentials – accuse him of bribery and abuse of power in connection with his actions on behalf of a real estate developer and campaign sponsor. Several officials, who have been fired or resigned, said the developer, Nate Paul, also hire a woman recommended by Mr. Paxton.

Last week, four of the former officials, who filed a lawsuit against Mr. Paxton over their dismissal, said the attorney general lied about their charges when he campaigned for re-election.

An FBI spokesman declined to comment. Both Mr Paul and Mr Paxton denied any wrongdoing.

Even with the swirl of accusations, Mr. Paxton is not as weak a candidate as some in Texas political circles think of him.

“People think Paxton is going to be vulnerable,” said Nathan McDaniel, a Republican political strategist based in Austin. “But what I see voters want is a fighter, someone who is going to sue Google or the Biden administration,” as Paxton has repeatedly done in the Biden case. In recent days, Mr. Paxton has also targeted parents of transgender minors, releasing an official opinion that certain medical treatments should be investigated as child abuse.

“I don’t think personal woes are as important to voters as you might think,” Mr McDaniel said. “Now, if he’s in prison, that’s a whole different thing. But will that happen? I do not think so. ”

In an interview, Mr. Gohmert predicted that Mr. Paxton would face corruption charges in federal court shortly after the primary, leaving Republicans no chance of replacing him before the general election. November election if he wins the primaries.

In response, Mr Paxton’s campaign sent out a statement from the attorney general attacking Mr Gohmert for “apparently relying on lies, intimidation and intimidation tactics to win”.

Political strategists say Mr Gohmert is the biggest threat to Mr Paxton’s pro-conservative base. Mr Gohmert entered the race later than other candidates, in November, but he attracted the negative campaign postcards, Facebook ads and a TV spot from Mr. Paxton.

Mr. Gohmert also has a friendly relationship with Mr. Trump and was the only person running for attorney general that Mr. Trump loved during last month’s protest.

“Louie Gohmert, what a great guy,” Mr. Trump told the crowd, acknowledging Mr. Gohmert among elected officials there. “This is a man who has been my friend since day one.”

Mr. Bush, who did his best to get Trump’s approval, did not attend the event because of scheduling conflicts, his campaign said.

“I definitely want that endorsement along with the support of his supporters. That’s why I continue to reach out to not only his followers but also to those who advise him in Texas,” Bush said in the interview, adding about Mr. Trump: “I do. think he made a mistake in this race.”

For her part, Ms. Guzman is running a targeted campaign, seeking to exploit voters in unwanted places.

“I saw a commercial for Eva Guzman in ‘Jeopardy!’ in the last week or two,” said Mari Woodlief, a Dallas-based political consultant. “‘Risk!’ and ‘Wheel of Fortune’ are two of the best kept secrets in politics because their audiences are almost all over 60 years old and they are voters.”

At a campaign forum this month, the three battled out in front of a staunch conservative audience in a theater on the oil-rich plains of West Texas between Midland and Odessa. He has vowed to take a tougher line than Mr. Paxton on the border issue, on crime and on allegations of fraud in Texas elections.

The hour-long debate began with Mr. Gohmert attacking Mr. Paxton for failing to investigate further allegations of fraud in 2020 and ended with Mr. Bush vowing to fight liberal Democrats. who “undermine our local government”. Along the way, Ms Guzman captivated the crowd with the story of how her father was killed “by an illegal immigrant” when she was 26 years old.

In a pre-meeting interview, Ms Guzman said the experience of seeing her father “covered in a yellow tarp” had emphasized to her that “these lawless frontiers are not victims. ” She says her experience on the bench has prepared her better for the job than any opponent.

Ms. Guzman, the Texan’s financial backer for Lawsuit Reform, a longtime power in Republican politics, downplayed Mr. Trump’s approval of Mr. Paxton. “Texans want to choose for themselves,” she said.

After the debate in the theater’s lobby, Roger Barnhart, 74, of Odessa and his son said they have yet to decide who to vote for.

Mr. Barnhart said: “I like Gohmert best, adding that he is also very impressed with Ms. Guzman.

His son, Dax Barnhart, 47, who works with his father in the hardware business, added: “A long time ago it was good to have the last name Bush here – not anymore.”

Though still undecided, eldest brother Barnhart left a solid impression on the candidates: “Anyone of them would be better than Paxton.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/27/us/texas-primary-ken-paxton-republican-ag.html Will Trump’s nod be enough for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton?

Fry Electronics Team

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