With campaigns releasing required financial data, eyebrows were raised around the state by Attorney General Ken Paxton backing a $2 million bank loan for his wife’s senatorial campaign.
Angela Paxton is running in an open seat Republican primary race with Phillip Huffines, the twin brother of State Sen. Don Huffines (R-Dallas). The outcome will be historic: either for the first time twins will serve concurrently in the Texas Senate, or for the first time a statewide elected official’s spouse will serve there.
Phillip Huffines entered the race shortly after incumbent State Sen. Van Taylor (R-Plano) announced he was seeking an open congressional seat. Others flirted with running, but by summer only Huffines was in the SD8 contest. In August, Angela Paxton announced she would seek the seat – which Ken Paxton had held until being elected Attorney General in 2014.
Angela Paxton entered the race at a marked disadvantage – she was entering the race nearly five months after Phillip Huffines began his campaign. More importantly, she was at a fundraising disadvantage. The Huffines family is wealthy and well-connected. Indeed, they had been big donors to many conservative candidates, including to Ken Paxton’s political campaigns.
The SD8 race has meant that the Huffines family’s ability to contribute to other races and causes around the state has been diminished.
In January, political observers were surprised to see that Angela Paxton had raised less than $500,000 in individual contributions. With this latest report (covering January 1 through January 25), she showed an additional $141,183 in contributions, in addition to a $2 million loan guaranteed by Ken Paxton’s campaign.
In 2017, Phillip Huffines raised more than $1 million in donations and personally secured a $2 million loan to his own campaign. In the first 25 days of January, he raised an additional $166,900 from donors.
Armed with an additional $2 million, Angela Paxton’s campaign can now effectively challenge Phillip Huffines’ dollar advantage. Whether or not this financial escalation helps voters or widens a schism in the conservative movement will depend on how it is all spent.
It appears the Paxtons have placed a $2 million general election gamble on voters wanting them both in public office. Ken Paxton’s campaign account brought in $774,000 in the last half of 2017, putting his war chest at $5.7 million.
Ken Paxton is unopposed in the GOP primary but faces an unknown Democrat named Justin Nelson in the November general election. Similarly, Don Huffines faces a Democrat opponent in November.
Should Angela Paxton’s campaign win, she will no doubt be able to raise the money necessary to cover the $2 million loan. If she loses, Ken Paxton’s campaign will be on the hook for the repayment of the loan just as he should be gearing up for what many predict to be a turbulent year for Republicans around the country.
While the circumstances around the Paxton loan are unique, campaigns routinely get bank loans secured by outside parties, whether the candidate personally or other political entities. In 2014, the Empower Texans PAC secured a $1 million bank loan for Ken Paxton’s campaign to be the state’s Attorney General. He repaid the loan after his successful campaign.
Texans for Fiscal Responsibility has not made an endorsement in the race. Given Senate District 8’s cherry red composition, Texans can expect the winner of the Republican primary election to take office in the Texas Senate in 2019.

Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael Quinn Sullivan is the publisher of Texas Scorecard. He is a native Texan, a graduate of Texas A&M, and Eagle Scout. Previously, he has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine contributor, Capitol Hill staffer, think tank vice president. Michael and his wife have three adult children, and a dog. Check out his podcast, Reflections on Life and Liberty.

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