AUSTIN, Texas — Rewarding one of his most fervent supporters, former President Donald Trump ended several months of speculation by endorsing Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton for reelection over several Republican challengers.
Paxton, who filed numerous lawsuits to defend administration policies while Trump was in office, had asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Democrat Joe Biden's 2020 victories in four states in an unsuccessful effort to provide Trump with the margin of victory needed for a second term in the White House.
Paxton also exhorted Trump supporters to keep fighting at a Jan. 6 Washington rally that preceded the violent riot at the U.S. Capitol, and in recent days Paxton has expressed support for a "forensic audit" of 2020 general election ballots in Texas similar to a GOP-led effort in Arizona.
On Monday evening, Trump responded by branding Paxton a "patriot" who had his "complete and total endorsement" for a third four-year term as attorney general.
"Attorney General Ken Paxton has been bravely on the front line in the fight for Texas, and America, against the vicious and very dangerous Radical Left Democrats, and the foolish and unsuspecting RINOs (Republicans in name only) that are destroying our Country," Trump said in a written statement of support.
Trump's move was a blow to Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, who is challenging Paxton in the 2022 GOP primary and who had made a concerted effort to win Trump's affections.
Bush was Trump's Texas Victory chairman in 2016 — earning praise from Trump as the only Bush who "got it right" — and Trump in May said he liked Paxton and Bush "very much" as he weighed which one would get his endorsement.
After Trump's announcement, Bush tweeted that he was running to restore integrity to the office, alluding to securities fraud charges tied to private business deals that have been pending against Paxton since 2015 and to an ongoing FBI investigation into allegations that Paxton improperly used his authority as attorney general to help a friend and political contributor.
"Texans deserve a candidate without a laundry list of existing and potential criminal indictments," Bush said on Twitter.
Another Republican, former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman, did not respond to Trump's endorsement and instead issued statements critical of Biden, communism and Texas House Democrats who broke quorum during the Legislature's special session.
Two Democrats who have announced campaigns for state attorney general criticized Paxton's alignment with Trump.
"As I predicted all along," Joe Jaworski, a lawyer and former mayor of Galveston, said on Twitter. "Paxton 'earns' Trump’s endorsement, not because of loyalty to Trump, because Trump doesn’t value loyalty; rather, Paxton has the endorsement because of what he’s prepared to do."
Civil rights lawyer and activist Lee Merritt also said the endorsement wasn't a surprise.
"This further enforces why this is a race for the people, by the people. It’s on us," Merritt tweeted.
This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Trump rewards Texas AG Ken Paxton with key endorsement in GOP primary