AUSTIN (Nexstar) — In the primary race for Texas Attorney General, not a single Republican or Democratic candidate got more than 50% of the vote, meaning both sides are headed to a runoff.
For Republicans, George P. Bush is set to battle incumbent Ken Paxton. That projection was announced the night of the election.
On Thursday, all 5,052 polling locations were officially reporting, giving Texas a clearer picture of which Democrat will be taking on Rochelle Garza in the Democratic runoff.
Joe Jaworski said he was waiting for all polling locations to report and considers this update official.
“We were waiting for the Secretary of State’s Office to show to 100%. They’ve been saying that 254 of 254 counties have reported, but there was always this sort of annoying difference between polling locations. It’s finally now 100%. So we are 1,400 votes ahead of Lee Merritt,” Jaworski said.
The results aren’t official until the canvass of the votes. He said he’s prepared to take on Garza in May.
“I think we’re all substantially on the same page when it comes to the major ticket items that appear on cable news every night. But my specific request to Democratic voters is restore the Texas Attorney General’s Office to that of a consumer protection law firm,” Jaworski said.
“If Democrats want to win in November, then I’m going to respectfully suggest that they support Joe Jaworski, an attorney who not only will get every Democrat to vote, as Ms. Garza may be able to say, but also moderate Republicans and independents,” Jaworski added.
Garza said her vote count makes her confident Texans will choose her in May.
“We pulled in over 400,000 votes, more than double the next two opponents. The people of Texas are saying something. They’re saying that they’re ready for representation; they’re ready for a woman to take on this position, a Latina,” Garza said.
Fourth-place finisher Mike Fields called for Jaworski and Merritt to step down, and hand it over to Garza. Jaworski said he won’t back down.
“Think about every team who enters the fourth quarter down by 20 points. I mean, do we ask the quarterback, ‘look, hand the ball over, man, it’s over?’ No, we don’t. This is Texas politics,” Jaworski said.
Jaworski also noted the difference between the fight among the Democrats and Republicans n this race.
“The bitterness that has ensued from how the primary turned to the Republican runoff is going to be on full display for the next 84 days, while Ms. Garza and I will have a respectable debate where we respect each other,” he said.
Paxton Tuesday night reacted to Bush pinning down second place for the runoff.
“What I’d say is clearly to the establishment, they got what they wanted to get me to a runoff,” Paxton said.
Bush, directly responding to that comment Tuesday night, said, “Ken Paxton is all about the labels right? As an indicted felon, he’s gonna do what he can to stay out of jail. If that’s his tactic, then so be it. But I’m going to focus on issues that Texas conservatives want to get done on the streets.”
Bush, like the other challengers in the race, worked to put a spotlight on Paxton’s ongoing legal issues. But it’s not clear that Paxton’s indictment or the ongoing investigations he faces are important to voters.
“It’s going to be a difficult argument,” said Jeremy Wallace, State Politics Reporter for the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express News.
Wallace pointed out that Paxton received more than 50% of the primary vote in counties that some consider “Bush country.”
“I’m talking places like Midland and Harris County where the Bush name still is very strong,” Wallace explained. “Bush really underperformed in those areas. So he’s got a lot of work to do.”
Bush also challenged Paxton to five televised debates. Paxton has yet to respond to that challenge.
The other two candidates in that race are not endorsing either Paxton or Bush.
Louie Gohmert said he would have endorsed Eva Guzman, who finished third against Paxton, but will now refrain from supporting either of the two in the runoff.
“I think we’re going to see some pretty good bare knuckle politics in that race,” said John Moritz, Capitol Correspondent for the USA Today Network about the runoff.
“Bush is not only fighting for his political life, he’s also got his family’s legacy on the line with him. Paxton is a survivor and he has done well with the Republican base so far, regardless of the baggage that he brings in. So this is not going to be a gentleman’s game between now and the runoff,” Moritz explained.
‘The greatest failure of my life’ – Affair leads Texas Congressman to abandon re-election campaign
A Texas Republican says he’s ending his re-election bid for Congress, even though he finished first in Tuesday’s primary. Plano Congressman Van Taylor announced Wednesday that he’s ending campaign to keep the District 3 seat on Capitol Hill.
The decision comes after Taylor admitted he had an affair. He made the admission after an interview with the woman went public just days before the election.
Taylor sent an e-mail to supporters, describing the affair as “a horrible mistake.”
“I had an affair, it was wrong, and it was the greatest failure of my life,” Taylor’s message read.
Taylor fell short of winning the majority needed in the primary to avoid a runoff. He was already facing a strong challenge from fellow Republicans. Taylor took criticism for voting to join Democrats to certify that Joe Biden won the 2020 Presidential election. He also took heat for being one of the few Texas Republicans who voted to remove all Confederate statues from the U.S. Capitol.
Taylor is serving his second term in Congress. His move to withdraw from the runoff means the Republican nomination will now go to Keith Self. The former Collin County Judge finished second in Tuesday’s primary.
South Texas runoff for Congress highlights divide among Democrats
An established, conservative democrat and a progressive, political newcomer will face off in May for the Democratic nomination in a south Texas Congressional district run-off election.
U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar has represented District 28, stretching from San Antonio south to the border, for 17 years. Now South Texas immigration lawyer Jessica Cisneros, once Cuellar’s intern, is running to unseat him a second time.
In 2020, Cisneros lost the primary vote to Cuellar by 3.6%. Tuesday, in a three-way race, Cuellar finished 1.5% ahead of Cisneros, but fell short of the majority needed to avoid a runoff.
Cisneros hopes mobilizing young, progressive voters will secure her the Democratic nomination. Cuellar has faced criticism from some liberal Democrats for his conservative stances on abortion and immigration. The battle between the candidates highlights growing tensions between Democrats from opposing political ends.
The Hill reporter Julia Manchester has been closely covering the race. She said relying on young voters with a historically low turnout could prove challenging for Cisneros’s campaign. In an analysis of the March primary results, Ryan Data & Research found that the average age of a Democratic primary voter was 58 years old.
“We know that Cuellar’s supporters tend to be older… more reliable voters,” Manchester said. “But I think you’re going to see the Cisneros campaign and her progressive allies, which can consist of a lot of progressive outside groups in the country as well as progressive lawmakers on Capitol Hill, very much trying to get the news of this runoff in front of voters in the 28th District.”
Manchester said the primary reflects rising tensions between more moderate, established Democrats and progressives as they seek to gain endorsements within the party.
“In 2020, we saw Speaker Nancy Pelosi traveling to the district to campaign for Cuellar,” Manchester said. “Whereas this cycle, we’ve seen progressive figures like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez [and] Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders come to the district to campaign for her.”
Longtime national Democrats like Pelosi have yet to voice their support for Cuellar this election cycle.
“I think they realize that, to an extent, this is a very tricky situation and potentially a lose lose situation,” Manchester said.
In January, the FBI raided Cuellar’s home and campaign headquarters as a part of an investigation into alleged ties between U.S. businessmen and the county of Azerbaijan. Cuellar denies any wrongdoing and he has not been directly linked to the investigation. But Manchester said the raid has had a significant impact on the race.
“We know that Cisneros and her progressive allies have painted Henry Cuellar as someone who is beholden to special interests and who has ties to outside groups and special interests in Washington.” Manchester said the raid has given life to Cisneros’ argument that the longtime Democrat has “special interests that make him look out of touch.”
Manchester said Republicans are eager to challenge either Democrat in taking back the conservative district.
“They have someone like Cuellar who’s tied to an FBI investigation and someone like Cisneros who has these very progressive policies,” Manchester said. “Republicans say those policies are out of touch in this pretty conservative district.”
The run-off primary election will take place May 24.
Vote count concerns could have impact beyond Harris County
After delays and intervention from county parties to impound election records, the Harris County Elections Division released its final primary election results early Thursday morning.
The state’s largest county took the longest time to release its election results from Tuesday’s primary. About two hours before the 7 p.m. deadline for results to be reported, the Harris County GOP filed a petition to impound the county’s election records, temporarily stopping the vote count.
A decades-old Texas law requires counties to report election results to the Secretary of State’s office within 24 hours of polls closing. The law does allow provisional ballots and corrected mail-in ballots to be counted up to six days after an election.
According to Texas Election Code, not meeting the results reporting deadline is a Class B misdemeanor, and ballot tabulation must be done continuously until all ballots are counted.
Court records show a district court denied the Republican Party’s petition and instructed Harris County Elections Administrator, Isabel Longoria, to provide a status update at 11:30 p.m. on Wednesday. This allowed the vote count to resume after it being temporarily stopped.
Harris County Republicans allege they received complaints on Tuesday and Wednesday about voting machines not being delivered or were delivered late to precinct locations on election day, issues with the machines themselves and election workers not being adequately trained to mitigate issues.
Cindy Siegel, the chair of the Harris County GOP, has called the situation a “fiasco” and shifted the blame to Democratic County Judge Lina Hidalgo.
Hidalgo is seen by some as a rising star among Texas Democrats, and she’s faced criticism before from Republicans in the state.
“You know, get used to hearing this,” said Jeremy Wallace, a state politics reporter for the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express News, referencing the Republican criticism of Harris County and Hidalgo. He said when something goes wrong in the county, Republicans will often amplify the problem to put a negative light on Democrats who lead Harris County.
“It’s taken on a different kind of intensity now that county judge Lina Hidalgo is the face of Harris County,” Wallace explained. “They want to go after her and make sure she doesn’t become a force to be reckoned with in the future.”
Some of the problems in Harris County stemmed from paper ballot sheets getting jammed in voting machines. A number of ballots were damaged, forcing election workers to make copies of the damaged ballots so they could be scanned into the system.
This was the first big election for Harris County to use new voting machines that require voters to feed a paper ballot into a machine. Similar types of voting machines will be required for all Texas counties by 2026. They’re designed to increase security while also leaving a paper trail, which has the potential to slow the vote counting process.
“Accuracy in a democracy is paramount,” said Moritz. “So if it takes you a little bit longer to count them all up and get it right, by all means get it right. And I think that’s, that’s where we should be landing on that rather than on, you know, name calling, you guys can’t run an election or you’re too slow or this or that.”