Race to Raise: Nelson vs. Paxton

After serving as a state representative and state senator, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is running for his second term as the state’s chief legal officer. Paxton’s time in office has been a dichotomy. Paxton has endeared himself to conservatives in Texas by leading the charge in successful lawsuits against many Obama-era federal mandates. At the same time, Paxton has spent three years defending himself again criminal indictments for securities fraud violations. Paxton supporters and numerous publications, including The Wall Street Journal, have labeled the charges questionable and politically-motivated. The charges partially stem from allegations by one-time roommate and later political rival in the Texas House of Representatives, outgoing Chairman Byron Cook.

The Democrat nominee, Justin Nelson, is a law professor at the University of Texas and founder of a nonprofit, One Nation One Vote, whose mission is to eliminate the electoral college system used to elect America’s president. Instead, One Nation One Vote advocates electing the U.S. President by popular vote. Both candidates were unopposed in their respective primary elections.

Here’s a quick look at the numbers:

Texas Attorney General – By The Numbers
Ken Paxton (I)   Justin Nelson 
Total Money Raised $3,022,440.62 $1,042,539.31
Total Number of Donations 596  2,368
Average Donation Amount $5,071.21 $440.26
Total Expenditures $3,325,231.23 $446,874.04

Both campaigns have spent heavily so far, especially given neither had a primary challenger. Nelson has spent $446,874, and Paxton has spent roughly $725,231, not counting the money given to his wife’s campaign or as bank collateral. This race is predicted to be the most competitive statewide election for 2018. It will be interesting to watch their spending in the lead up to the November election.

Key Takeaways from the race for Texas Attorney General:

  1. It’s a Family Affair.
    The Paxton’s have now become a political power couple in Texas. Angela Paxton, Ken Paxton’s wife, is now the Republican nominee for a State Senate seat encompassing Collin County. Paxton contributed $600,000 from his campaign account to his wife’s campaign account, and in January, put up $2,000,000 as collateral for a bank loan – whether the loan is for his campaign or hers is unclear.
  2. Moderate and Liberal PACs Bring the Cash.
    Despite the fact that Ken Paxton is clearly from the conservative wing of Texas’ Republican Party, and many see his legal troubles as political retribution from some more liberal Republicans, moderate and liberal Republican PACs donated big to Paxton’s campaign. Texans for Lawsuit Reform donated $78,000; Farmer’s Employee & Agent PAC contributed $50,000; and Texas Association of Realtors chipped in $50,000. It seems that whether these PACs approve of Paxton’s politics or not, they wish to remain in the good graces of the top law enforcement officer in Texas.
  3. D.C. Consultant Comes to Texas.
    Nelson’s largest payee is a digital campaign consulting firm from Washington D.C., Revolution Messaging LLC.  The firm boasts being founded by key members of the Obama and Bernie Sanders campaigns, and self-identifies as “passionate progressives.” Their only other Texas candidate so far is Andrew White, who lost to Lupe Valdez in the Democrat primary for governor.

Before you go…

In Texas, where no Democrat has won a race for statewide elected office since 1994, Nelson’s challenge to Paxton has breathed new life into Democrat hopes. One poll conducted by the University of Texas / Texas Tribune in late June showed the two candidates virtually tied. However, given Paxton’s general popularity with Republicans and the fact that he has $7,000,000 in his campaign account compared to Nelson’s $1,000,000, those Democrat hopes are likely to be dashed in November.


Our Race to Raise series takes a deeper look at the most high-profile races of the election cycle, focusing specifically on money raised by those seeking to serve in public office. Stay tuned for the next installment.

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