TexasGOPVote Blogger Endorsements: Ken Paxton shores up support in key counties

Ken Paxton’s campaign for Attorney General is building much like Ted Cruz’s successful bid for the U.S. Senate. With Rep. Dan Branch being the candidate to beat- with heavy establishment backing and a campaign war chest that will enable him to blanket the state with mass media marketing, similar to David Dewhurst’s expensive media-based Senate campaign- Ken Paxton and Barry Smitherman have been vying for the tea party support which got Cruz into the runoff and then catapulted him to victory.

Both Paxton and Smitherman have gained the backing of influential organizations which play a vital part in challenging incumbents or establishment favorites in GOP primaries. In fact, Texas Right to Life issued a dual endorsement, opting to choose both rather than pick a favorite- an action that perhaps many in the conservative grassroots wish they could take when they go into the voting booth. But the grassroots tug-of-war finally seems to be sliding in the direction of a favorite, as while endorsements may be great, the ones that truly matter come from organizations that can put boots on the ground.

In the May 2012 Republican primary election, four counties played a key role in getting Ted Cruz into the runoff: Collin, Denton, Tarrant, and Montgomery. Paxton, being from Collin County, has strong support in the first three of these counties, winning the endorsement of over three-quarters of the Republican State Representatives from each of those counties, including the entire Collin County delegation. The Senator also has the backing of strong grassroots organizations in the area, such as the North Texas Tea Party.

Earlier this week the Texas Patriots PAC, a tea party organization based in Montgomery County, announced their endorsement of Paxton, giving the Senator the edge in the last area of the state which proved critical for Cruz’s campaign. The Texas Patriots PAC has a reputation for being a powerhouse when it comes to elections and is, as Ben Streusand of Americans for Prosperity – Texas put it, “one of the most able, well lead, most effective Tea Party organizations in the entire country.” In the 2012 Senate primary, of the four key counties that got Ted Cruz into the runoff, Montgomery County provided 44 percent of the votes putting Cruz ahead of Dewhurst. In the runoff, Montgomery County supported Cruz with 67 percent of the votes cast, which was the highest percentage earned by the Cruz campaign among the top ten Republican counties, and ten points above the statewide average.

Most states would love to be in the situation Texas is in right now. Indeed, we may be suffering from a certain poverty of riches, as it were, when it comes to candidates. In the race for Attorney General, Barry Smitherman has certainly attracted the attention of many with his professed social conservatism and record of suing the EPA seven times. But the edge Ken Paxton is gaining in this race seems to stem from his leadership in the struggle over principle when he was in the legislature. Paxton’s stellar voting record, coupled with the fact that he challenged Joe Straus for the speakership knowing the full consequences which would come his way if he lost, represent the strength of character needed in the position of Attorney General.

While Ken Paxton’s Cruz-esque momentum is certainly enough to get him into a runoff were he in a race congruent to Cruz’s Senate bid, the 2012 primary race had 10 candidates running for Senate, whereas only 3 candidates are vying for Attorney General. Texans shouldn’t be surprised if the Cruz victory has set a strong enough precedent in Texas elections for Paxton to win with no runoff needed.

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