DALLAS — One of the leading questions that Texas political observers are asking as we close in on the March 1 primary is whether Attorney General Ken Paxton will get forced into a runoff.
Paxton is evidently concerned about one of his three challengers – retiring congressman Louie Gohmert – since the incumbent began launching negative ads against his fellow conservative.
In an appearance on Sunday’s Inside Texas Politics, though, Gohmert was asked whether his own internal polling shows the race is tightening.
“We haven't done a poll, since we very first got in, but I know Paxton has nine times more money than I do so he's running polling constantly and for him to go on the attack against only one of the three people that is running against him tells you his polling – that's going on constantly – tells him, he is going to be in a run off with me and he's trying to avoid that,” Gohmert said on the television program.
Paxton needs 50% of the vote plus one in the primary to avoid a runoff and advance on to the November general election.
But he and Gohmert are from the same wing of the Republican Party – popular among Trump voters that make up the conservative base today – and the two men could split that vote.
Two recent polls show Paxton might not have enough support to avoid a runoff.
Watch the segment below:
A survey released on Jan. 30 by the Dallas Morning News and U.T. Tyler shows Paxton with 33% of support from Republican primary voters, outgoing Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush in second place with 19%, Gohmert third with 8%, and former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman with 7%.
Two weeks ago, the University of Houston released a poll showing Paxton getting 44% of support from “almost certain primary voters.” Gohmert finished second with 15%, Bush had 13% and Guzman, again, had 7%.
Despite the dismal showing, Gohmert explained why he is walking away from a practically guaranteed seat in Congress.
“I'm willing to risk any political future I have to try to save Texas. Because without Texas, no Republican can win the White House. I want to save Texas, so we can save our country, whereas Paxton is willing to risk the state and country to save his own skin,” Gohmert said.
Paxton raised $2.7 million in the last reporting period and currently has $7.5 million cash on hand -- the most of any Republican in the race.
And Paxton is using some of that money to launch the attack ads that go after Gohmert for missing more than 800 votes in Congress since he was elected in 2005.
Gohmert dismissed the attacks, saying most of the votes were procedural.
"Well, we have thousands and thousands and thousands of votes and one of them is an approval of the journal, which is the transcript from the previous day. As a judge, I never approved a transcript unless I read it, and that accounts for many of the votes. And many of the votes to – whether it's quorum call are some votes on suspensions – are done just so they get us to the floor and can whip up on us and try to get us to vote for something they don't want," Gohmert said on Inside Texas Politics. "When those are the votes, I’m not in a hurry to get there. I didn't miss one vote, it was inconsequential, it wouldn't have mattered. I'll put that on the record. My cousin had died, I was his legal representative, I needed to get back. It was totally unexpected. But he made an issue of missing that, even though it didn't make any difference in the scheme of things."
The congressman then unleashed on Paxton for ethical questions, facing a felony charge from 2015 for securities fraud and a reported investigation by the FBI for corruption after seven top staff members accused him of wrongdoing.
Paxton denies any wrongdoing.
“He also put out stuff saying I'm not conservative and that just shows how desperate he is and what a liar he is,” Gohmert argued. “What do you expect? He's under indictment for securities fraud. He's about to get indicted after the primary in all likelihood for corruption so adding lies to him, not just the lies, he told his private life, but to voters, he's desperate.”
Bush, Gohmert and Guzman appeared on Sunday’s Inside Texas Politics as they make a final blitz across the state to try to put Paxton into a runoff.
Paxton’s campaign declined an invitation to appear on Inside Texas Politics.
Early voting begins on Feb. 14.
Election day is Tuesday, March 1.