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AG Paxton’s comment on Gov. Abbott foreshadows fierce competition in 2022 race for Texas governor

“I don’t think he supports me; I don’t support him.”
Published: May. 5, 2021 at 6:12 PM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a New York Times story published Tuesday that he does not support Gov. Greg Abbott, a fellow Republican, as Abbott runs for reelection.

“The way this typically works in a primary, is it’s kind of everybody running their own race,” Paxton said in the article, “I don’t think he supports me; I don’t support him.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was quoted on Tuesday in a New York Times article as saying...
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was quoted on Tuesday in a New York Times article as saying he does not support Governor Abbott.(Tony Gutierrez | AP)

Paxton has since come out and denied the quote in a tweet.

Texas Tribune Executive Editor and Co-Founder Ross Ramsey joined First News at Four to talk about the power struggle between top Republicans in Texas with less than a year before the primary election in the race for governor. Ramsey said the election is just another point of contention after a year filled with divisive issues.

“There was a point earlier in the year when the current chairman of the Texas Republican Party, Allen West, and the current Republican Agriculture Commissioner, Sid Miller, were part of a crowd that was outside of the governor’s mansion, yelling into megaphones at Greg Abbott over his pandemic restrictions,” Ramsey said. “So there’s clearly some tension inside the party.”

He said tensions will grow as more names begin to consider a run at the governor’s mansion later this year. Ramsey explained that could lead to a rift within the Texas Republican Party.

“There’s kind of two elections, the primary election, you’ll see factions within a party, trying to win nominations,” Ramsey said. “Greg Abbott’s from one faction I think it’s probably safe to say that Ken Paxton, at least right now, seems to be from another faction. And they could come to blows in a Republican primary.”

A University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll released Tuesday found that 43 percent of Texas voters said they approve of the job Abbott is doing, compared to 45 percent who said they disapprove. Abbott’s approval rating was 77 percent among Republicans. But that’s down from 88 percent just last April. Ramsey says that’s partially due to the backlash Abbott has received for his handling of the pandemic.

“Greg Abbott’s numbers are slightly ‘underwater,’” Ramsey said. “Where there are more people with negative impressions than positive impressions largely because of the way COVID has played through this governorship.”

But, Ramsey believes the governor is still in a good position to be elected for a third term.

“Greg Abbott’s been really really good at raising money and anybody who wants to run against him has to raise enough money to at least compete with him in terms of things like ads, people knocking on doors, people hanging things on doors, mail, all of that stuff that is part of a modern campaign,” said Ramsey.

He said Abbott remains the leading candidate in the race because, despite some criticism, he still polls well within the GOP.

“If you ask Republicans, it skews toward Abbott. If you ask Democrats it skews away from Abbott,” Ramsey said. “So one of the things about looking at overall numbers, is that you’re sort of seeing positive and negative about Greg Abbott, but you’re also seeing very negative Democratic reaction, very positive Republican reaction.”

Maintaining strong support within the Texas Republican Party could be consequential. Gov. Abbott still hasn’t ruled out a run for the Oval Office in 2024. Ramsey said the 2022 race for governor will be crucial to creating a path to the White House.

“If [Abbott] were to lose [the 2022 race for governor], it would clearly damage his hopes for another office later,” Ramsey said. “If [he] won a race like that it might set him up for [a 2024 presidential campaign].”

President Donald Trump and Melania Trump greeting Gov. Abbott after arriving in El Paso in 2019.
President Donald Trump and Melania Trump greeting Gov. Abbott after arriving in El Paso in 2019.(Mark Lambie | Associated Press)

But if Abbott does win and decides to enter the 2024 presidential race, Ramsey said he’ll need to be ready for a fight.

“This is going to be a very competitive Republican primary in 2024,” Ramsey said. “Republicans are going to be jockeying … kind of licking their chops and at the same time looking warily at each other to figure out who might be the competition.”

But in Texas, Ramsey said it’s clear that all roads to the governor’s mansion go through Abbott.

“Greg Abbott’s a formidable candidate so anybody who wants to take him on is going to have to come prepared.”

Watch the full interview in the player above.

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