Texas Attorney General Paxton defeats Bush in GOP runoff

·3 min read
FILE - Republican Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush makes a campaign stop, Feb. 10, 2022, in Austin, Texas. Bush is running for attorney general in Texas' Republican primary runoff election against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Tuesday, May 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton won his Republican runoff election against Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush on Tuesday despite facing a slew of legal problems, including an FBI investigation and a trial on securities fraud charges.

Bush is the only member of his famous family still in office, but the loss means he will now exit in January. That will leave the Bush dynasty out of elected office for one of the few times in the last 40 years.

The coming end of the Bush era — at least for now — came at the hands of a two-term incumbent still dogged by a 2015 felony indictment and a separate FBI investigation into accusation of corruption. But importantly in Texas, Paxton had the backing of former President Donald Trump, who has mocked and antagonized the Bush family on his way to taking their mantle as the GOP’s standard-bearer.

Paxton, who has denied wrongdoing, is now within reach of a third term in Texas, where a Democrat hasn’t won statewide office in nearly 30 years. More recently, the State Bar of Texas is weighing possible reprimands against Paxton over his baseless attempts to overturn the 2020 election.

It was one of two closely watched primary runoffs in Texas: On the Democratic side, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, one of the last anti-abortion Democrats in Congress, was in the fight of his political career against Jessica Cisneros, who supports abortion rights.

Despite finishing second in March’s four-way primary, Bush trailed Paxton by 20 points. The wide gap underscored Paxton’s continued political durability and showed how much ground the 46-year-old scion of the Bush political dynasty needed to make up with GOP voters in Texas, where his uncle, former President George W. Bush, was once governor and his late grandfather, former President George H.W. Bush, was a congressman and longtime Houston resident.

But the Bushes’ influence in the GOP is not what it once was. Two years ago, Pierce Bush, a cousin of George P. Bush, became the first member of his family to lose a race in Texas in 40 years in a failed run for Congress in Houston.

When U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas last week became a rare top Republican to publicly criticize Paxton, calling his long-running and unresolved criminal case an “embarrassment,” Paxton shot back by aligning him with the Bushes.

“I’m not shocked by the Senator’s comments. He represents the Bush wing of the GOP,” Paxton tweeted.

Greg Pinn, 41, of Dallas, decided to vote in the Republican primary “solely” to vote against Paxton. He said that while he wasn’t fond of George P. Bush, “no one is worse than Ken Paxton.”

“The attorney general of Texas at least shouldn’t be an actual criminal, he’s got to be somewhat better than that,” Pinn said.

In the final weeks of the campaign, Bush has ratcheted up his attacks on Paxton’s legal troubles, running ads that highlighted the unresolved indictments and FBI investigation and called him unfit for office.

“This race isn’t about my last name,” Bush says in one ad. “It’s about Ken Paxton’s crimes.”

Voter Suzanne Grishman, 54, wasn’t deterred by the attorney general’s indictment or the ongoing FBI investigation. “I believe people are innocent until proven guilty,” she said.

Grishman said she cast a ballot for Paxton in Dallas because she appreciates his “very bold stances” and because “he has a proven track-record of following the Constitution and the laws of the land and individual rights and freedoms for Americans and Texans.”

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Associated Press writers Jake Bleiberg and Jamie Stengle in Dallas contributed to this report.

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