The Dallas Morning News
Senate hopefuls in full attack mode
GOP’s Paxton, Huffines agree on issues, work to set themselves apart
As the campaigns of Republicans Phillip Huffines and Angela Paxton begin to heat up in what’s believed to be the state’s most closely watched Senate primary, the two are inundating voters with mailers, billboards, TV ads, phone calls and social media posts — some of them negative.
Huffines and Paxton are both longtime party conservatives running for the Senate District 8 seat held by Van Taylor, who is running for Congress. The district serves mostly Collin County.
The two candidates agree on a lot of the issues: border security, property tax relief, school finance reform. Both also have access to big money and the benefit of well-known names. He is the twin brother of state Sen. Don Huffines. She is the wife of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Against that backdrop, both are doing everything they can to distinguish themselves before early voting kicks off Tuesday for the March 6 primary.
Huffines, 59, emphasizes his business background. Paxton, 55, points to her career in education.
In December, Huffines issued a $2 million personal loan to his campaign. In January, Paxton secured a $2 million bank loan guaranteed by her husband’s campaign. Both have also collected tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions.
And while the two are cordial to each other at candidate forums, their campaigns have recently turned harsh in mailers and videos.
Paxton’s campaign accuses Huffines of going negative and hiding donations he gave to Democrats. “Huffines gave thousands of dollars to bankroll liberal Democrats who backed [President Barack] Obama and support sanctuary cities and abortion,” the voice on the ad states.
Huffines’ campaign blasts Paxton as being a political insider and getting rich, along with her husband, from public service. The announcer in the ad noted the couple’s personal holdings increased from $30,000 to $3 million during Ken Paxton’s years in office, stating, “Public service pays surprisingly well for Ken and Angela Paxton.”
Patrick for Paxton
On Friday, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick endorsed Paxton.
In a video message, Patrick said he had planned to remain neutral in the race. “But when I saw the personal attacks lodged against Angela Paxton, I couldn’t remain on the sidelines any longer. Angela Paxton has been a friend for years, and I can tell you this: Everyone who knows her agrees that she’s a dynamic conservative leader and a person of integrity, deeply rooted in her Christian faith.”
Huffines’ campaign strategist, Matthew Langston, issued a response shortly before noon Friday.
“Much like Dan Patrick, we are disappointed in the personal attacks that Angela Paxton has initiated for months in this race,” he stated. “Going so far as to question Phillip’s pro-life beliefs. Phillip has worked with the Lt. Governor for many years on conservative causes and to help elect conservative candidates across the state. Phillip Huffines is a personal friend of the Lt. Governor, and he will work closely with him in the Texas Senate.”
‘Work ... for the truth’
At a recent forum, Angela Paxton emphasized her 20plus years living in McKinney and working in the district. The schoolteacher and guidance counselor most recently spent 11 years at Legacy Christian Academy in Frisco. She’s also active in several Republican groups. She believes her perspective as a teacher would offer a unique voice in the Senate.
“I look forward to bringing a missing voice, to speak for education and to make a difference so that our kids continue to have great schools to go to,” she said at a recent candidate forum. “I will represent the strong conservative values that are important to you.”
Huffines, the former Dallas County Republican Party chairman who moved from Highland Park to Richardson last year, focuses on his decades of business dealings in Collin County through his family’s automotive dealerships as well as his real estate development company. He believes his stance against the state’s political establishment will help him get things done in the Senate.
“Let’s make sure that the Austin insiders do not manipulate and tell you how to vote in this election,” he said at a recent candidate forum. “If we work together for the truth, we can restore ethics, and we can make certain that Collin County remains the beacon of liberty and prosperity that it is.”
The Paxton-Huffines victor will face the winner of the Democratic primary, either Mark Phariss or Brian Chaput, in November.