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Despite Promise to Debate ‘Anybody,’ AG Ken Paxton Will Debate No One in Re-Election Campaign

Photo by Mark Mulligan / Houston Chronicle

Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a TV interview that he would be “happy to debate anybody on the issues” as he seeks re-election this fall, but he is now backing off that offer by refusing to debate Democrat Justin Nelson as voters decide who to hire as the state’s top lawyer.

Paxton instead “will communicate directly with the voters,” his campaign spokesman, Matt Welch, wrote in an emailed statement Thursday in rejecting Nelson’s invitation to debate.

Welch did not respond when asked if Paxton’s previous offer to debate was sincere.

“I’m happy to debate anybody on the issues and I look forward to it,” Paxton said on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” program in November.

The Democratic challenger in the attorney general’s election is taking shots at Republican Ken Paxton in a new campaign ad, celebrating a June 25 poll that says the incumbent’s popularity among voters is slipping.

Nelson, a political newcomer and lawyer, has focused his campaign on attacking Paxton’s integrity, reminding voters the attorney general is under indictment in a securities fraud case. Paxton has yet to face trial but is nevertheless considered a favorite in the race given Democrats last won a statewide election since 1994. Democrats are betting a so-called “blue wave” of voters disenfranchised by the Trump administration could make a difference in the November midterm election.

Paxton isn’t the only Texas incumbent to reject invitations to debate. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican who leads the Texas Senate, has refused to debate Democratic challenger Mike Collier. Other Republican statewide officials down the ballot have also indicated they would speak directly to voters, thus avoiding debates which offer Democrats free air time to boost their name recognition.

However, Republicans at the very top of the ticket are open to debating their Democratic challengers. Gov. Greg Abbott is debating with Democratic challenger Lupe Valdez over when to debate this fall and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has proposed five debates with Democratic U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke.

Article by Andrea Zelinski View on Houston Chronicle

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