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Paxton headed to a runoff in May, Abbott and O'Rourke coast through primary

Shelby Knowles
Texas Tribune

Republican incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott and Democrat Beto O’Rourke are set for a showdown in November following Tuesday’s primary election. But incumbent Attorney General Ken Paxton failed to earn a majority of the vote and will face George P. Bush in the May runoff.

The field is partially set for the November midterm elections following Tuesday’s first-in-the-country primary election in Texas.

At the top of the ticket, Gov. Greg Abbott held off a field of well-known Republican primary challengers and garnered about 70% of ballots tallied Tuesday to comfortably avoid a runoff. Abbott will face former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who easily bested his lesser-known Democratic opponents and took in more than 90% of the vote.

A Texas Democrat hasn’t been in the governor’s mansion since Ann Richards held the seat in the 1990s and O’Rourke, who lost a close race for U.S. Senate to Republican Ted Cruz in 2018, presents the best shot for the minority party in decades.

Abbott is seeking his third term as governor and fended off challenges Tuesday from former state Senator Don Huffines, a Dallas-area Republican and Allen West, the former chair of the Texas Republican Party and a one-term Florida congressman. As of late Tuesday, Huffines and West had earned 11% and 12% of the vote, respectively.

O’Rourke spoke to reporters in his native El Paso Tuesday morning before casting his ballot at the county courthouse. He pitched himself as a unifying voice in a state that’s more divided now than any time in recent history.

“We need a change in Texas. We can't have a state where we are pitted against one another, where we are as divided as we've ever been, where we have a governor, whose administration is to have been defined by corruption and incompetence and cruelty against every day El Pasoans,” he said.

Speaking in Corpus Christi on Tuesday night, Abbott described O’Rourke as an “open-borders” candidate who will take Texas down the wrong path.

“Texans face a very profound question this election, do we take a left turn that leads to more government and less freedom?” Abbott said.

“A path that would destroy jobs, open our borders and endanger our communities. Or do we maintain the course in a secured greater freedom, more jobs and safer communities?”

Attorney General

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who succeeded Abbott in that role, wasn’t as successful Tuesday and looks to be headed into a May runoff election against current Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush. In Texas, candidates must receive 50% plus one of the vote total to avoid a runoff, and Paxton fell short of that with about 43% to Bush’s 23%. Also vying for the seat were former Texas Supreme Court justice Eva Guzman, and U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Republican from Tyler.

Bush campaigned as the better option to Paxton, who has served nearly his entire tenure under the cloud of an indictment on charges of securities fraud in 2015. Paxton was also subsequently accused by former employees of misusing his office to help a donor.

At a watch party in McKinney Tuesday, Paxton conceded the race will go into overtime, Houston Public Media reported.

“What I would say is, clearly to the establishment, they got what they wanted,” Paxton said. “They got me into a runoff.”

On the Democratic side, Rochelle Garza was the top vote getter with about 44% but fell short of the threshold needed to avoid a runoff. As of late Tuesday, Joe Jaworski and Lee Merritt had about 20% and 19% of the vote totals, respectively.

Lieutenant Governor

Lt Gov. Dan Patrick is seeking his third term in the role and previously served as a state senator from Houston. Patrick easily outperformed his five lesser-known challengers on Tuesday.

Still up in the air is who will take on Patrick in November. Democrats Mike Collier, a Houston-area accountant, and current state Rep. Michelle Beckley are heading into a runoff election.

With about 93% of the ballots counted late Tuesday, Collier had about 42% of the vote and Beckley had 30%. Beckley has served in the Texas House since 2019. Collier previously ran against Patrick in 2018 and came within 5 percentage points of him.

Land Commissioner

The field in the race to succeed Bush as land commissioner won’t be decided until May as Republicans Dawn Buckingham, a current state senator, and Tim Westley are headed to a runoff.

Democrats Jay Kleberg and Sandragrace Martinez look to be headed to a runoff as well. With 90% of the vote in Tuesday night, Martinez had 32% of the vote and Kleberg about 27%. The office’s main duty is managing millions of acres of state-owned land. The land commissioner is also charged with overseeing the disbursement of benefits to Texas’ veterans.

Agriculture Commissioner

Incumbent Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller appeared headed for a victory after Tuesday’s Republican primary election in his bid for a third term in that office. Miller defeated state Rep. James White, a Republican from Hillister, who has served in the Texas House for six terms. Miller, also a Texas House veteran, has faced criticism for his ties to a former aide, Todd Smith, who was indicted last year on theft and bribery charges.

Democrat Susan Hays won the party’s nomination and will face Miller in the November general election.


In the race for state comptroller, Republican incumbent Glenn Hegar easily won the nomination. He will face eitherJanet Dudding or Angel Luis Vega, who are headed to a May runoff for the Democratic seat.

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Got a tip? Email Julián Aguilar at jaguilar@kera.org.You can follow Julián on Twitter @nachoaguilar.

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Julián Aguilar