AUSTIN (AP) – A scramble to fill statewide offices in one of the biggest turnovers in Texas government history began with Tuesday’s primary, but several of the key contests will require runoffs to decide a final winner.
Six of Texas’ top offices lack an incumbent, and while many of the Democrats ran unopposed in their primaries, crowded fields in the Republican races for attorney general and commissioners for agriculture and railroads won’t conclude until the top-two finishers square off May 27.
And the tense four-way Republican race for comptroller, the state’s chief financial officer, was too close to call early Wednesday morning.
Attorney General Greg Abbott is running for governor, and grass-roots favorite and state Sen. Ken Paxton of McKinney won a three-way GOP race to succeed him but failed to capture a majority. He will face state Rep. Dan Branch, a key ally of Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, in the runoff.
Democrat Sam Houston, an attorney from Houston, was unopposed for his party’s attorney general nomination.
There was also no majority won in the Republican race for agriculture commissioner. Former state Rep. Sid Miller of Stephenville will compete with fellow former state lawmaker Tommy Merritt of Kilgore in a second round of voting.
On the Democratic side, entertainer Kinky Friedman — who has run unsuccessfully for both agriculture commissioner and governor in the past — launched another bid for agriculture commissioner, this time promising to push for legalizing marijuana. He’s headed to a runoff against Jim Hogan, a little-known rancher from Cleburne who has done only minimal campaigning.
“Obviously a straight-up win is what you always want, but we knew this was going to be a tough sell for some folks in Texas,” Friedman said in a statement. “Our camp has taken on a tough issue, and we’re not backing down because this is what’s right for the people of our great state.”
One race that was never in doubt was that of Land Commissioner. George P. Bush, the grandson of one former president and nephew of another, cruised to victory over East Texas businessman David Watts, while former El Paso Mayor John Cook won the Democratic nomination unopposed.
The night’s closest race was the GOP contest for comptroller, where state Sen. Glenn Hegar of Katy held a sizable lead over Kerrville state Rep. Harvey Hilderbran — but hadn’t quite achieved a majority of the votes cast. The pair could be headed to a runoff while the race’s other two candidates, tea party activist Debra Medina and former state Rep. Raul Torres of Corpus Christi, trailed by wide margins.
The comptroller race’s lone Democrat, Houston businessman Michael Collier, won his party’s nomination.
Meanwhile, Business-backed Ryan Sitton of Houston and fiercely conservative former state Rep. Wayne Christian of Center will compete for the Republican railroad commissioner nomination. Clinching the Democratic railroad commissioner nomination was Steve Brown, a former Fort Bend Democratic Party chairman.
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