Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton declares victory over Rochelle Garza

Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton appeared likely to defeat Democratic challenger Rochelle Garza, as of unofficial voting results.

With more than two thirds of the expected vote tallied, Paxton was up by more than 10 percentage points, a feat for an incumbent who was largely viewed as the most vulnerable Republican running statewide.

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Several polls over the last few months showed Paxton and first-time candidate Garza within single digits of each other, though more recently they showed Paxton had widened his lead.

“The reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated,” Paxton told supporters in a victory speech Tuesday night in Plano. “We’ve been under attack from opponents. We’ve been under attack from the media, from the left, even from the establishment. What’s so amazing to me, I truly believe the people of Texas understand what’s right and wrong, and they understand where we’re at in this battle for our country, for our freedom.”

Paxton promised supporters he’d continue to sue the Biden Administration and predicted Republicans would take control of the US House and Senate, which he said meant the president will rely even more heavily on executive orders. Control of both chambers was too close to call on Tuesday night.

“So what does that mean for my office?” he said. “You just thought 32 lawsuits in less than two years was a lot? I guarantee you we’re going to be on the front lines.”

Garza, a 37-year-old former ACLU attorney from South Texas, focused her campaign on Paxton’s mounting legal issues, which include felony securities fraud charges from 2015 and an FBI investigation into corruption allegations by his former aids. He also faces a professional misconduct lawsuit from the Texas State Bar over his failed legal effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

In a statement late Tuesday, Garza thanked her supporters, family and friends and staff and vowed to keep fighting for Texans.

“Although these weren’t the results we hoped for, I know that together we will be at the forefront of change,” Garza said. “I am so proud of everything we have accomplished together, and I promise that I will not stop advocating for you until our reproductive rights are restored, our civil rights are protected, and our elected officials are accountable to us, the people.”

Paxton denied all wrongdoing and characterized each as political witch hunts by enemies who dislike him for being a prominent hardline conservative.

This election cycle has been the most grueling of Paxton’s tenure. He first had to fend off three serious opponents in the March Republican primary, who, like Garza, focused on his legal issues and pointed out he won by fewer points than any other Republican running for statewide office in his last re-election campaign, in 2018.

As the state’s top lawyer, an attorney general has expansive authority to set or challenge policies by suing on behalf of residents. Nationwide, under attorneys general like Paxton and his predecessor, now-Gov. Greg Abbott, the offices have grown their political influence from beyond state matters and broken onto the national stage.

Paxton, 59, has done that by launching legal challenges against the Biden Administration over a variety of issues, ranging from immigration to transgender rights. He has gravitated toward more hyperpartisan, culture war issues over his tenure.

He’s issued a legal opinion that spurred the state’s child welfare agency to begin investigating gender-affirming health care for transgender children as abuse, and sued the Biden Administration more than a dozen times over immigration policies that he says are contributing to a crisis at the border.

He also created and continues to expand a voter fraud unit that has failed to uncover the volume of crime that he and other Republicans have claimed goes unchecked.

A loyal Trump ally who has the former president’s endorsement, Paxton has also been one of the most prominent election deniers in the country. In 2020, he spearheaded a legal effort to overturn the presidential election results that year in four battleground states; the suit was quickly dismissed for lack of standing.

Garza and Paxton could not be further apart on the political spectrum — a factor that both capitalized on as they labeled each other extremists of their parties.

Paxton has accused Garza of supporting an “open border” policy, disrespecting US Border Patrol members and defending human smuggling suspects in court.

Meanwhile, Garza has highlighted Paxton’s role in pushing the state’s near-absolute abortion ban, a policy she says went “too far” for many Texans.

As a civil rights lawyer in 2018, Garza won a case against the Trump Administration in which a 17-year-old in detention was denied the right to an abortion. Under an agreement with the government, teens in custody have since been given the “Garza Notice,” letting them know about their rights concerning the procedure.

Despite polls showing the race was competitive this summer, Garza never received the windfall of cash for her campaign that’s typically regarded as a must-have in a state with more than 17 million registered voters. Paxton had almost $3 million in his war chest as of the latest tally, about a week before the election, while Garza had just about $300,000.

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