Former President Donald Trump, left, has endorsed Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton for reelection in 2022.

Credit: The Texas Tribune

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Former President Donald Trump has backed Attorney General Ken Paxton for reelection, passing over primary challenger George P. Bush in bestowing the highly sought-after endorsement.

“It is going to take a PATRIOT like Ken Paxton to advance America First policies in order to Make America Great Again,” Trump said in a statement Monday evening. “Ken has my Complete and Total Endorsement for another term as Attorney General of Texas. He is a true Texan who will keep Texas safe—and will never let you down!”

Trump has teased an endorsement in the primary ever since the days before Bush, the land commissioner, announced he was challenging Paxton. Eva Guzman, the former state Supreme Court justice, has since launched a primary bid against Paxton as well.

But the hunt for Trump’s endorsement had centered intensely on Paxton and Bush, who was the only prominent member of his famous political family to support Trump in the 2016 election. Paxton had expressed confidence that Trump’s endorsement would eventually come through for him, while Bush talked multiple times with Trump about the race and met with him earlier this month at his Bedminster club in New Jersey.

The endorsement is not entirely surprising given that Paxton has been one of the most pro-Trump attorneys general. He filed the lawsuit late last year that challenged Trump’s reelection loss in four battleground states — the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear it — and he spoke at the pro-Trump rally that preceded the deadly U.S. Capitol riot in January.

Still, Trump had raised the prospect he could back Bush in a late May statement that said he “like[s] them both very much” and would make an endorsement “in the not-so-distant future.”

Bush made little secret that he badly wanted Trump’s endorsement. His campaign played up 2019 comments in which Trump said the land commissioner was “the only Bush that got it right.”

Minutes after Trump released his Paxton endorsement, Bush appeared to respond on Twitter by reiterating the incumbent’s legal troubles. Paxton has been under securities fraud indictment for most of the time since he took office in 2015, and more recently, the FBI opened an investigation into whether he abused his office to help a wealthy donor. He has denied wrongdoing in both instances.

“I’m running for Attorney General because Texans deserve integrity and honesty from the office of Texas’ top law enforcement official,” Bush said. “Texans deserve a candidate without a laundry list of existing and potential criminal indictments.”

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