AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The race for the top law enforcement official in the Lone Star State is heating up as the campaigning reaches its final stages.
The race began with an indicted incumbent in Ken Paxton, and a challenger in Justin Nelson aiming to break the pattern of a state that has not had a Democrat in statewide office since the mid-1990s.
The attack ads this election started from the Nelson camp, jabbing at Paxton’s record in court — both as a lawyer and as a defendant. Paxton has been indicted on securities fraud charges, accused of swindling wealthy investors before taking office in 2015. He’s pleaded not guilty. His trial has been repeatedly delayed amid a separate legal fight over special prosecutors seeking $200,000-plus in pay for leading the case against him.
Paxton has stayed fairly quiet until the last couple of weeks, responding with two new hit pieces of his own going after Nelson’s liberal identity.
In a Monday appearance on a Lubbock radio program, he said he and his team take the race seriously, as other races on the ticket steal the spotlight.
“There could definitely be some close races,” he told KFYO’s Chad Hasty. “You know, Cruz’s race could be close, I think my race could be close.”
“We just defended Voter ID, we just defended redistricting, which we’re about to go back through,” Paxton said. “We would have a Democratic A.G. who would not only not defend but would likely be attacking Gov. Abbott and the legislature.”
He doubled down on his worry that Nelson “won’t defend the laws” if elected, saying that upcoming redistricting of Texas congressional boundaries hangs in the balance.
Nelson meanwhile, has used the district redrawing as a chance to differentiate himself from his opponent.
“Gerrymandering corrupts democracy,” Nelson said in a campaign interview. “It takes away people’s voices. Voters should pick their politicians and politicians shouldn’t pick their voters.”
Standing in an Austin neighborhood where three different districts converge, Nelson said the current arrangement “disenfranchises people.”
“It makes people feel not part of the community,” Nelson said. “And it’s wrong, and it’s designed solely to further partisan interest over the state or the country.”
Intentional or not, Paxton’s appeal to voters to warn of Nelson’s approach echoes his own approach to litigating the federal government.
“You’re going to see the Democratic A.G. suing President Trump over and over and being part of that Democratic process of trying to undo things that President Trump is doing,” Paxton said.
Nelson knows he’s the underdog as he calls on voters to “restore integrity.”
“We need to… fight corruption to make sure we have independent voices,” Nelson said.
The two most recent title-holders of the Attorney General’s office went on to become U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and Gov. Greg Abbott.