Texas Runoff Election Odds: Ken Paxton vs. George P. Bush, TX-28

Written By Evan Scrimshaw on April 14, 2022
ken paxton

Two of the most interesting races coming down the road in the next few weeks are contentious Primary in Texas, where the GOP Attorney General Ken Paxton and conservative House Democrat Henry Cuellar are both fending off primary challenges that went to a runoff in March’s primary.

Fortunately, with PredictIt, you can legally bet on whether they win or not, and a series of other political bets.

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GOP Attorney General

CandidatePredictIt PriceImplied Odds
Ken Paxton$0.90-900
George P. Bush$0.07+1329

Another scandal ridden politician, this time Republican Ken Paxton, is trying to keep his job in the GOP Primary for the Attorney General’s job, after failing to win outright against a field of three contenders in March. Now comes the run-off election.

Paxton, under indictment for years for securities fraud, is a firebrand conservative who has been able to survive in Republican politics despite his legal troubles through a series of stunts, most recently a statement that reinterpreted Texas laws around child abuse to apply to parents of trans children right before his primary.

The problem for those who wish Paxton a speedy political decline is that Paxton’s non-binding reinterpretation bought him enough good will to stop a stampede of votes to Louis Gohmert, the conservative-but-not-Paxton choice in the primary, leaving Paxton in the race against George P. Bush – nephew of the former Texas Governor turned two-term President, and son of Jeb Bush.

Bush spent much of 2021 sucking up to former President Trump in an attempt to get his endorsement for the job, pitching himself as a Trumpian conservative without the baggage of Paxton, before Trump decided to endorse Paxton. Why Bush thought Trump would ever endorse the son of Jeb is unclear, but he went for it.

Refusing to leave the race at that point, Bush soldiered on, and ended up getting a (kind of) respectable 20% in the primary, and getting ahead of Gohmert for this spot. But the problem is, these kinds of leads just don’t get overturned in runoffs.

Generally speaking, candidates who end up ahead in three or four-person fields win their runoffs, and the only time they don’t is when there is either a concerted effort of the entire rest of the field to consolidate around one candidate and when the lead isn’t that big to begin with. Here, neither of those conditions exist.

Bush’s only hope would be that Democrats, without any important primaries of their own to vote in on runoff day (outside of a few House seats), decide to come in to defeat Paxton on the basis of the lesser of two evils, and there has been some anecdotal evidence to suggest that some Democrats in Austin and Dallas have considered it. The problem with that is not enough of them will do it.

This kind of push would need to involve hundreds of thousands of Democrats voting in a GOP runoff, and all breaking for Bush, to be successful, and there just aren’t enough people who can be bothered to come out to vote in a Republican primary to bail out a Bush kid.

If George P.’s last name was Smith, it would be possible that some number of Democrats would be willing to do it, but the Bush last name, as much as it was gold for so long in Texas politics, was always mud in Democratic circles, and there won’t be a concerted push big enough to save him.

Regardless of the contempt many feel for Paxton, he is going to cruise to a runoff victory, and his victory is as close to a guarantee as you can get.

TX-28 Democratic Primary

CandidatePredictIt PriceImplied Odds
Henry Cuellar$0.66-194
Jessica Cisneros$0.30+233

In March 2020, the Texas 28th was viewed as a safe Democratic seat, and so progressive challengers, boosted by the 2018 win of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, added conservative Democrat Henry Cuellar to the list of members worth primarying.

Cuellar, a pro-life Democrat from South Texas, has been a longstanding thorn in the side of the party’s left, a staunch opponent of most social changes, and the exact kind of blue dog that, as the thinking goes, isn’t needed in safe seats. Many supported his challenger, Jessica Cisneros, because of the perceived lack of threat to the district with a progressive candidate. And then, 2020 happened.

In 2020, South Texas shifted substantially right, with culturally conservative Hispanics lurching wildly right, meaning that was formerly viewed as safe terrain is decidedly not so anymore – and that changes the calculus for primarying Cuellar.

What also changes the calculus is an FBI raid on him from January, where he is under investigation for ties to foreign businessmen on allegations of corrupt dealings. While he has no charge against him, the risk of that investigation does loom over him, and any electability argument he can try and make.

The problem is, Cisneros can’t make a better one.

Cisneros is in many ways the victim of circumstances. The race she wanted to be running against Cuellar was a race similar to Bowman vs. Engel from 2020 – a dottering, needlessly conservative old incumbent in a safe seat that could elect a more left wing member. Now, she’s trying to run this campaign in a seat that Democrats are going to lose soon.

Whether it’s in 2022, 2024, or 2026, Democrats will lose this seat to the Republicans, and this makes the question of electing a staunch progressive a much harder sell than it would have been earlier.

The thing is, her best chance to win this was in March, because of the dual factors of the FBI raid and the nature of the redrawn district – the new 28th snakes into San Antonio more than the old version, making it more favorable for her – and she blew it by not winning in the first round.

On primary day, she had the chance to get her younger, more socially liberal and more transient voters out to the polls, and she didn’t get enough. And now, with turnout likely to fall in a runoff, she’s gonna do much worse.

Cuellar will win, despite the fact that he is only nominally a Democrat, because older, culturally conservative Cuellar voters are the ones likelier to vote in the runoff, and the farther voters are from the FBI investigation, the better Cuellar will do.

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