Republican Ken Paxton is seeking a third term as Texas attorney general this fall, facing Democrat Rochelle Garza. Paxton’s longstanding legal problems remain a major feature of the event. But a host of national issues, from border security to abortion rights, could determine the outcome.
Bay View is about 20 miles from the Texas-Mexico border. Jeneria Lewis is a city councillor here, which means she can only speak for herself, not the town. She cited Ken Paxton’s long record of suing the Democratic presidential administration on behalf of the nation as one of the main reasons she plans to vote for him.
“I think he’s brought more than 30 lawsuits against Joe Biden or the federal government for federal overreach,” Lewis said. “He seems to be a guy who’s committed to protecting us,[about]election integrity, to large scrutiny of tech companies.”
But when asked what she cared about most, Lewis didn’t hesitate. “Immigration is everyone’s number one problem here, at least in Texas that I know of,” Lewis said. “We need help. We need the federal government to do their job.”
No wonder Paxton has Lewis’ support on immigration. In a recent attack ad against his Democratic opponent, Paxton’s campaign accused Rochelle Garza of supporting open borders and opposing any form of immigration enforcement.
There is no evidence that Garza took the extreme positions that Paxton’s ad claimed. But if he can win a third term as attorney general, immigration could be the reason. Since President Biden took office, he has brought at least 11 immigration-related lawsuits against the federal government. A bigger factor may be the actions of Governor Greg Abbott. In recent weeks, Abbott’s anti-immigration policies, including driving immigrants out of state, have helped extend his lead over Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke.
“I think it’s Greg Abbott and Beto O’Rourke who are taking all the airtime,” said Sharon Navarro, a political scientist at the University of Texas at San Antonio. “That’s the most important thing. It’s the media focus. “Voters in the midterms don’t usually pay much attention to the ballot race. And you know, the Attorney General’s race isn’t as sexy as the gubernatorial race. And so it’s going to be very, very difficult to get voters to pay that much attention to that particular office.”
Even now, few voters know who Paxton’s challenger is, Navarro said.
“Rochelle Garza has an uphill battle,” Navarro said. “She’s within 2 to 3, 5, 7 percentage points, depending on who you look at in the polls, but she has about 10 percentage points unknown.”
Garza is a former ACLU attorney known for defending the rights of teen immigration detainees to have abortions. She argued that Paxton’s legal problems were enough to get him out of office, noting that he was indicted for state securities fraud and was being investigated by the FBI for abuse of power. She also said his federal lawsuit record was not in the state’s interest.
“He is trying to overturn the 2020 election and could lose his legal license as a result,” Garza said. “And I think Texans are fed up. They don’t want to see leadership like that.”
A related issue is Paxton’s role in the January 6 uprising. Paxton was speaking at a rally outside the White House shortly before the start of the Capitol parade, with his wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton (R-McKinney) by his side.
“I want you to know about the battle in Texas,” the attorney general said. “We fought 12 lawsuits in a row related to mail-in ballots, involving signature verification, federal court, state court, Travis County, Austin and Houston. We fought. We won every case, and because of that, Donald Trump won Texas by more than 600,000 votes.”
The U.S. House of Representatives select committee on the Jan. 6 attacks has not made headlines recently, but it is expected to hold at least one more hearing before wrapping up its work and presenting its findings.
“I think a lot depends on what the committee will recommend by then on Jan. 6,” said Juan Carlos Huerta, a professor of political science at Texas A&M University Corpus Christi. “There will be more to come. More accusations? Will Paxton be part of the report? Or will most voters just shrug and say, ‘Well, you know, yes, it happened, but there are other issues.'”
The other issue Huerta sees most likely to affect race is abortion. “I think you can show that a lot of voters no longer use it as a decisive vote because there is an understanding that abortion rights are protected Roe v Wade. Now as it’s gone, it’s become a more prominent issue,” Huerta said.
Huerta thinks the abortion issue may help to affect a particularly important demographic in the race.
“I think the real key to this election will be how white women vote,” Huerta said. “I want black voters to vote Democrat and Latino voters to vote Democrat. The dominant race in Texas that votes Republican is white voters, and I’m curious that white women — like Dobbs’ decision, will Wouldn’t that have an impact on their vote in 2022?”
At least one Houston voter said it would.
“I’m looking for a candidate like Rochelle Garza who understands reproductive rights and women’s rights because she herself recently gave birth during the campaign,” said Ashley Werner, a nonprofit staffer.
Garza doesn’t shy away from immigration either. Garza shot back when asked about Paxton’s accusations that she was weak on border security.
“I’m a fifth-generation Tejana from the Rio Grande Valley,” Garza said. “I grew up on the border. I also practiced immigration law. So, I understand the intricacies of immigration law, and I know what it’s like to live in a border community. And the reality is, we’re wasting taxpayer money.” These political stunts, every $1,700 for immigrants sent north. These resources need to remain in Texas. “
Garza will need a big win in the state’s metropolitan area to overtake Ken Paxton. But even the Houston area doesn’t have voters who support Paxton like Rebecca Clark, “because I love what he’s doing for Texans and for me personally. We want an AG that enforces the law, and that’s What he’s been doing, we want him to do.”
On immigration and border security, Clark is exactly the kind of voter Garza wants to win. The daughter of immigrants, Clark volunteered for a nonprofit that helps refugees in the Middle East and North Africa find work.
“What I’m trying to say here is, I want to be clear, I like that we’re a melting pot and that should stay that way,” Clark said, however, “most people want other people to come here like they are by the proper way. channel, it’s just for the safety of us and the people who are coming.”
Clark doesn’t believe Garza, as attorney general, will provide any similar security. “To me, she doesn’t represent the majority that Texans want,” Clark said.
Despite multiple attempts to interview Ken Paxton, no one on his campaign responded.
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