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Ken Paxton And George P. Bush Advance To May Runoff In GOP Texas Attorney General Primary

AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM/CNN) - It will take a runoff election for Texas Republicans to decide on their nominee for state attorney general after incumbent Ken Paxton fell short of an outright victory in Tuesday's primary, setting up a showdown with Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush in May.

With more than 93% of the state's precincts reporting, Paxton had about 42.7% of the vote, versus Bush who had 22.8% of the vote.

Paxton led the four-candidate field by a comfortable margin, despite feisty and well-funded challenges from Bush, former state Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman and Rep. Louie Gohmert.

"I guess what I'd say is, clearly, to the establishment: they got what they wanted," Paxton said in a speech to supporters late Tuesday. "They got me in a runoff."

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a two-term incumbent, defeated a crowded field of GOP challengers to secure the gubernatorial nomination, while Beto O'Rourke, a former congressman and Senate and presidential candidate, won the Democratic nomination.

Ken Paxton
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference CPAC on July 11, 2021 in Dallas. (credit: Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Votes are being counted in Texas in the first primaries of the 2022 midterms, with contests on both sides of the aisle poised to set the landscape for elections in November that could swing control of Congress to Republicans.

But as the results came in, Texas shared the spotlight with President Joe Biden's State of the Union address on Capitol Hill and the rapidly escalating crisis in Ukraine, where invading forces from Russia are moving in on major cities across the country.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's troops were camped out on the Ukrainian border when early voting began in Texas on February 14, and while the conflict appears unlikely to influence Tuesday night's elections, quick-moving events at home and abroad underscore the challenges facing candidates as the 2022 midterms begin in earnest.

The banner contest on Tuesday revolved around Paxton, the two-term incumbent who filed a failed lawsuit seeking to effectively overturn the 2020 election and ran under a cloud of legal issues, with the possibility of more on the horizon. His GOP challengers, led by Bush and Guzman, argued he could endanger the GOP's effort to yet again sweep statewide offices.

Polling ahead of Election Day showed Paxton with a commanding lead but suggested he would fall short of the majority he needed to win the nomination outright.

George P. Bush

Bush, the latest in a political dynasty that, even with the Republican Party now in thrall to former President Donald Trump, maintains a considerable stature in Texas political circles and this campaign amounted a referendum on the future of that dynasty.

Like Bush, Guzman, who spent more than a decade on the state's high court, is a relative moderate. The pair clashed in a recent debate, which saw Guzman question Bush's qualifications and Bush denounce Guzman as a "gutter politician." More troubling for Paxton, though, was been the candidacy of Gohmert, whose ideological and geographic base overlaps with Paxton's.

The Democratic primary for attorney general will also go to a runoff, CNN projected.

Hanging over the primary were concerns -- at least among Democrats and voting rights advocates -- about the effect of the state's restrictive new voting rules.

Texas was the first of a number of Republican-led states to hold major elections after passing legislation, on the back of a political wave set off by Trump's long campaign to sow doubt over his loss in 2020, that complicates mail-in voting and outlaws other efforts to make the ballot more accessible. Some larger Texas counties have reported spikes in ballot rejections because would-be voters did not meet beefed-up and, to many, confusing new identification requirements.

The primaries brought some poll worker shortages and other glitches, but Election Day itself was mostly calm -- with the scramble to fix the unusually high number of faulty mail-in ballots emerging as the biggest challenge from this first round of voting.

(© Copyright 2022 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The CNN Wire™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company contributed to this report.)

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