The plot thickens in the GOP race for the 2022 Attorney General Nomination

State Representative Matt Krause’s (R-Ft. Worth) entry into the 2022 primary contest seeking the Republican nomination for Attorney General adds yet another potential obstacle to incumbent AG Ken Paxton efforts to get reelected for a third term amidst an already crowded primary field. The presence of Land commissioner George P. Bush and former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzmán have already made the race the most hotly contested statewide race in 2022 so far, with early endorsements and fundraising suggesting that Paxton is by far the most embattled GOP statewide incumbent in a primary contest that is proving to be a powerful driver of the state’s political agenda. Paxton narrowly defeated Democratic nominee Justin Nelson in 2018, 50.57% to 47.01%. Libertarian Michael Ray Harris pulled in 2.43%.

Coverage in the major state outlets recaps the numerous legal, ethical, and personal issues that have accumulated over AG Paxton’s two terms in office and which have emboldened his challengers. Following his announcement, Krause soft-pedaled Paxton’s problems while indirectly referencing them. As reported by Patrick Svitek, “I think Texas needs — and wants — an attorney general who can give his or her full focus to the job,” Krause said in an interview with The Texas Tribune. Unlike Bush or Guzmán, Krause enters the race with roots in the more conservative faction of the Texas House. As Gromer Jeffers puts it in the Dallas Morning News, “He’s known as one of the staunchest conservatives in the Texas House with firebrand support for Second Amendment rights, religious liberty, border security and anti-abortion legislation.” Krause is already using this association to balance Paxton’s high-profile endorsement by Donald Trump in July. Also from Jeffers’ story:

“No doubt that was an important endorsement to get for the incumbent because President Trump still has a lot of popularity in the public and party,” Krause said. “Our message is just replace the names and everything that’s listed in that endorsement from the former president can be said of us and our campaign. So if you’re looking for that faithful conservative fighter who can do all those things that Trump praises, and bring some extra things to the table, then we’re your candidate.”

The backstory to the race, particularly Paxton’s record, is pretty well-established, and likely to be heavily revisited in the coming months by both the candidates and the political press. As context for today’s announcement, we’ve compiled polling results related to views of Paxton among Texas voters, with an emphasis on Republicans and conservatives, as well the extent to which voters report thinking about their choice in the race so far.

Paxton’s job approval rating in the August 2021 UT/Texas Politics Project Poll was slightly underwater: 35% approved, 38% disapproved, though intensity of disapproval was 13 percentage points higher than was strong approval. Breaking the ratings down by party identification illustrates the degree to which the overall ratings reflect widespread and strong disapproval among Democrats and much less prevalent “strong approval” among Republicans. Paxton’s approval rating declined slightly from June polling, though this was true of most statewide officials and political institutions.

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Approve strongly19%
Approve somewhat16%
Neither approve nor disapprove16%
Disapprove somewhat6%
Disapprove strongly32%
Don't know12%

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Approve strongly2%15%34%
Approve somewhat3%17%27%
Neither approve nor disapprove12%20%18%
Disapprove somewhat8%6%5%
Disapprove strongly64%31%6%
Don't know11%11%10%

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CategoryLean RepublicanNot very strong RepublicanStrong Republican
Approve strongly35%13%44%
Approve somewhat30%32%23%
Neither approve nor disapprove10%20%21%
Disapprove somewhat4%9%4%
Disapprove strongly9%10%1%
Don't know12%15%7%

Conservatives remain supportive of Paxton’s job performance, including the most intense conservatives. Here, and among Christican conservatives, are where Krause hopes to present a viable alternative more attractive than other candidates already in the race.

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Approve strongly1%9%35%
Approve somewhat3%10%27%
Neither approve nor disapprove8%21%18%
Disapprove somewhat7%8%5%
Disapprove strongly68%35%7%
Don't know11%17%9%

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CategoryLean conservativeSomewhat conservativeExtremely conservative
Approve strongly16%29%50%
Approve somewhat25%33%21%
Neither approve nor disapprove20%17%17%
Disapprove somewhat11%4%3%
Disapprove strongly12%6%4%
Don't know16%11%5%

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Approve strongly9%23%19%
Approve somewhat14%15%21%
Neither approve nor disapprove16%14%19%
Disapprove somewhat7%7%4%
Disapprove strongly42%30%22%
Don't know11%11%15%

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CategoryThe Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word.The Bible is the word of God but not everything in it should be taken literally, word for word.The Bible is a book written by men and is not the word of God.Don't know.
Approve strongly30%20%8%12%
Approve somewhat22%17%7%23%
Neither approve nor disapprove18%15%12%27%
Disapprove somewhat5%7%7%4%
Disapprove strongly15%29%55%20%
Don't know11%12%11%15%

Only about a third of Texans say they have thought a lot about who they will be supporting for Attorney General in the 2022 elections — not surprising for a middle-of-the-ballot race in an election next year. But it’s also not surprising that those who identify as “extremely conservative” and “strong Republicans” are more likely to be paying a lot of attention – which has been a driving factor in politics in the legislature throughout 2021.

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A lot30%
Not much24%
Not at all19%

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A lot30%17%34%
Not much21%25%25%
Not at all25%29%11%

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CategoryLean RepublicanNot very strong RepublicanStrong Republican
A lot26%21%45%
Not much30%29%20%
Not at all7%17%11%

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CategoryLean conservativeSomewhat conservativeExtremely conservative
A lot19%29%48%
Not much31%22%22%
Not at all24%13%7%

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CategoryThe Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word.The Bible is the word of God but not everything in it should be taken literally, word for word.The Bible is a book written by men and is not the word of God.Don't know.
A lot40%27%29%15%
Not much19%24%24%34%
Not at all19%17%21%28%


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