AG Ken Paxton’s fraud case may have actually helped in GOP runoff with Bush. Here’s how

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Ken Paxton absolutely dominated his runoff race with George P. Bush.

The attorney general took nearly 68 percent of the vote. GOP voters again rejected the notion that Paxton is too legally or ethically challenged for a third term, following the McKinney Republican’s framing of the investigations and allegations he has faced as politically motivated.

In a twisted way, the long-running securities fraud charges Paxton faces may have worked to his benefit.

The case predates his election as attorney general. It has dragged on for years, often due to legal challenges brought by Paxton allies over, for instance, payments to special prosecutors.

When other, more significant issues directly related to his important statewide position have arisen — particularly a federal bribery investigation and corruption allegations from top Paxton deputies — the AG has been able to paint it as all part of the same old trap run against him.

He’s helped by the fact that as a criminal matter, the securities case doesn’t add up to much. Paxton is accused of failing to disclose to investors that he was paid to recruit them to back a tech company. He faced a civil proceeding, drawing a reprimand and a $1,000 fine.

What he did was wrong. But few people are prosecuted criminally for such an offense, and with seven years of hindsight on this one, it’s clear why. After all, don’t many of the Democrats who lust to see Paxton convicted and imprisoned also talk about the need to reduce incarceration for nonviolent, low-level crimes?

Voters have had chance after chance to condemn Paxton over the fraud allegation, and they’ve declined to do so. GOP voters see him as an important bulwark against Washington’s misdeeds on immigration and social issues.

When serious allegations directly related to his position as AG arise, the details get lost. Bribery charges, Paxton’s odious attempt to intervene in other states’ election results on behalf of Donald Trump and his election lies, even arguments that Paxton is above the law — all are swept away in the persecution narrative.

Paxton can say to voters: Look, there’s never been anything to all this. Nothing to see here, move along.

Plenty of Republican voters decided to do exactly that.

A few other observations about Tuesday’s runoffs:

How badly did things end for Bush? His well-funded and widely covered campaign drew fewer votes against an embattled incumbent than an unknown Republican challenger in the runoff for railroad commissioner. Sarah Stogner, an unconventional oil-and-gas lawyer who took on incumbent Wayne Christian, lost badly, too, but she got nearly 30,000 more votes than the guy with one of the most famous names in politics.

FILE - Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
FILE - Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

As one reader noted after I wrote about this in our weekly email newsletter Worth Discussion, plenty of Republican voters were done with the Bush family and voted against Jeb’s son more than they voted for Paxton.

Incumbents buck history: Usually, if an incumbent gets dragged into a primary runoff, it’s trouble: There were enough votes in the first round to boot them from office. But this year, in addition to Paxton and Christian, state House incumbents mostly held on.

In the Fort Worth area, that includes north Fort Worth Rep. Stephanie Klick, who beat back challenger David Lowe, and Rep. Glenn Rogers, who won the redrawn district that now includes Parker County.

Trump’s scorecard: When it comes to Trump’s influence in the GOP, most eyes were on Georgia, where his record was mixed. But it’s worth noting that the former president went two for two in Tarrant County. Tim O’Hare won the nomination for county judge in the initial primary vote, and Trump-backed Phil Sorrells took the runoff and will be the GOP nominee for Tarrant County district attorney.

Of course, what that really means is that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, whom Trump has said bends his ear about Texas endorsements, went two for two. It’s doubtful Trump truly cares who heads the Commissioners Court or even knows what it does.

Editor’s note: A version of this column originally appeared in our opinion newsletter, Worth Discussion. It’s delivered every Wednesday with a fresh take on the news and a roundup of our best editorials, columns and other opinion content. Sign up here.