The headline race in Texas’s primary runoffs on May 24 is the Ken Paxton versus George P. Bush showdown for Republican attorney general candidate.
For Texas Republicans, it’s representative of a Trump versus Bush dynasty duel.
“It’s a very interesting state of affairs, and I think it indicative of a sea change that’s occurring in Texas politics and politics generally,” Kenneth Grasso, professor of political science at Texas State University, told The Epoch Times.
“There’s historically been tension, you might say, in the Republican Party in Texas, between the more social conservative/populist wing, and the more mainstream business Republicans, that predates, I think, Donald Trump, but … the ascendancy of Trump certainly has highlighted that and brought that out into the open.”
Paxton, the Trump-endorsed incumbent, failed to outright win the primary in March, which requires 50 percent of votes, plus one. However, in the four-way race, he ended with a handy lead over second-place Bush—gaining 42.7 percent of the votes to Bush’s 22.4 percent—and should be confident going into the runoff.
Bush, the current land commissioner, beat out Eva Guzman and Rep. Louis Gohmert for second spot in the runoff and would have to pick up their votes to remain competitive against Paxton.
Turnout for primary runoffs is historically dismal, so it’s likely to come down to whichever candidate the Republican stalwarts prefer. The more high-profile 2020 presidential primary attracted fewer than 13 percent of registered voters in both the Republican and Democrat races. Texas has 17 million registered voters.
“ Help me end the Bush Dynasty,” Paxton wrote on Twitter on May 17, as early voting was underway.
Paxton has legal issues going into the election, which may be part of the reason he didn’t sail through the primary. He’s facing an FBI probe into abuse-of-office allegations as well as an upcoming trial for securities fraud.
But, he received the coveted Trump endorsement last year, which likely gave him an early bump. On May 16, Paxton posted a video of him and Trump standing together as the former president calls him “the most effective attorney general.”
“Get out and vote for Ken Paxton, he’s going to win big. But you know what, just in case he gets a little bit close, go out and vote. He’s done a terrific job for Texas and for our country, and he has my complete and total endorsement,” Trump said.
Bush—the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who ran for president in 2016—has his family political dynasty behind him, which used to be considered Texas royalty.
However, the Bush name isn’t necessarily an advantage anymore as support of the name wanes, particularly post-Trump. He is the last Bush still in office.
“I’m proud of my family’s contributions to Texas and America. But this race isn’t about my last name,” Bush said in an ad released on May 12. “It’s about Ken Paxton’s crimes.”
Polling of likely Republican voters has Paxton ahead of Bush by a 42 percent margin, according to an April poll by the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation.
Forty percent of the primary voters said they’d never vote for Bush, with two-thirds of those saying it’s because he’s a member of the Bush family.
Grasso agreed that the Bush family name is a dealbreaker for many Republican voters.
“The Bushes found themselves sort of outside of the mainstream of the Republican Party once Trump defeated Jeb Bush in the Republican primaries—that was lots of bad blood.
“Paxton is clearly the candidate of the Trump wing of the party in the sense that he is, again, a social conservative, more populist oriented, more aggressive and assertive in pushing his political agenda,” Grasso said.
Bush tried to align himself with Trump and distinguish himself from “his famous relatives who were anti-Trump,” Grasso said. “But clearly he’s the can…