Surveying the 2022 Republican Primary Field

The 2022 primary promises to be be a spectacular and action-packed blockbuster of an election. For the first time since 2014, there will be several competitive races at the statewide level. Republicans are feeling good about their chances of retaking the U.S. House in 2022, and the roadmap to a congressional majority runs straight through Texas, promising to generate some competitive House primaries.

Major events are starting to move fast, and we don’t want you to miss a thing, so The Forty-Five News will summarize the highlights from the campaign trail every weekend. So if you want to know what’s going on then read on. The 2022 primary season is going to be a wild ride!

Here’s where things currently stand:

Governor:

Incumbent Governor Greg Abbott is running for re-election with a formidable war chest of campaign cash and the endorsement of former president Donald Trump. Because he has all the advantages of incumbency, he is heavily favored to win re-election. However, many Republicans are unhappy with the governor, which has elicited the first serious primary challenge Abbott has faced in his entire political career.

Entertainer and podcaster Chad Prather is challenging Abbott from the right. Prather definitely has a following and is an affable guy, but he is new to electoral politics, so it remains to be seen what kind of campaign infrastructure he will be able to build.

Right now former State Sen. Don Huffines, who has deep pockets, political experience, and a base of support in the DFW area, has emerged as the stronger challenger. So far Huffines has hammered Abbott on the three issues of border security, property taxes, and election integrity, which also happen to reliably poll as the top of issues for Republican primary voters. Huffines recently released a list of 1,000 GOP activists who are supporting his campaign. The challenge for Huffines is that he has very little name ID outside the Metroplex. He will also need a message that appeals to a broader swath of Texas voters outside his Tea Party wing of the GOP.

Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller has long been known to be considering a gubernatorial run, however, he has not yet announced. He has been very critical of Abbott, attending rallies against the governor’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Miller has said recently that he is still considering running and is not phased by Trump endorsing the incumbent. Miller has a lot of political experience, and also statewide name ID. However, he also has some baggage such as his controversial social media posts and a bizarre trip to Oklahoma for a “Jesus Shot”.

Concluding the list of gubernatorial potentials is Republican Party of Texas Chairman Allen West, who announced his intention to resign recently saying that he is considering running for something else. Although he has not yet announced his next step, it is widely believed he will challenge Abbott for governor. Like Miller, West has rallied against governor Abbott, and he was very critical of the last legislative session. West is a very charismatic and polarizing figure. He has national name ID and a devoted following, however, he is also abrasive and has plenty of detractors. Regardless, he will be a strong contender.

Lieutenant Governor:

Incumbent Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has announced his intent to run for re-election for his current job, and like Abbott, he was an early recipient of the much-coveted Trump endorsement. Although Patrick has definitely put some people off, he doesn’t seem to have earned the ire of the GOP base the same way Abbott has. Patrick does not have any serious primary challengers at this time.

Attorney General:

Incumbent Attorney General Ken Paxton was the lowest Republican vote getter statewide in 2018, and is undoubtedly the most vulnerable incumbent heading into 2022, both in the primary and in the general. His troubles go back to 2015, when he was indicted for allegedly violating securities fraud laws. However, in more recent years, he has faced turmoil within his office, with senior staff walking out and whistle-blowers alleging corrupt activities. He is also under investigation by the state bar.

Land Commissioner George P. Bush is challenging Paxton in the primary, however, he also has some baggage, namely: his last name. Bush also generated some controversy over his office’s handling of The Alamo and attempts to “re-imagine” the hallowed monument.

The AG race got even more interesting when Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman resigned from the court in order to enter the primary against Paxton. She is offering a third option to those who aren’t thrilled about voting for either of the two men. Guzman has an extensive legal background and lots of experience, as well as a record on the Supreme Court. However, she is not as much of a known commodity among GOP activists as perhaps Paxton and Bush are. Nonetheless, in past campaigns she has been one of the top vote-getters in state history, so she will undoubtedly be a strong candidate.

Land Commissioner:

By the time all the candidates have announced, it may just be easier to list who is not running for Land Commissioner. With Bush vacating the seat to run for AG, the field is wide open. The first to announce was perennial candidate Weston Martinez, who has picked up the endorsement of Miller. State Sen. Dawn Buckingham who represents a broad swath of the Texas Hill Country west of Austin has also announced she is running, as has heart surgeon Jon Spiers. Galveston County Judge Mark Henry was considering running, but ultimately has decided to run for re-election instead. State Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) has been rumored to be a potential candidate, however, he says his focus is on the senate right now.

Republican Party of Texas Chairman:

With West’s resignation, the RPT’s 62 member State Republican Executive Committee will hold a special meeting to choose his successor. Candidates to replace West include Texas Republican County Chairmen’s Association President David Covey, former State Rep. Matt Rinaldi, and lobbyist Chad Willbanks.

Covey has a long record of grassroots involvement in the party, starting as a precinct chair and working his way up. He is the county chairman of Orange County and represents Senate District 3 on the SREC.

Rinaldi was a state legislator from the Dallas area until he was defeated by a Democrat in the 2018 general election. He is an attorney and was consistently rated as one of the most conservative members of the Texas House during his time in office. However, Rinaldi doesn’t have much experience within the party apparatus.

Willbanks is a lobbyist and is the former Republican Party of Texas Executive Director. However, he got in the race comparatively late and doesn’t have as much of a following in the current RPT as Covey and Rinaldi.

Miscellaneous:

So far the only major candidate to announce their candidacy to replace outgoing Congressman Kevin Brady in the 8th district is Morgan Luttrell, the brother of Lone Survivor Marcus Luttrell. Luttrell has hired Brady’s campaign manager, Craig Lewellen, to run his own campaign. Christian Collins, another former Brady staffer, has said he is “strongly considering” running, and has met with leaders of the House Freedom Caucus. State Rep. Steve Toth (R-Conroe), the author of Texas’ Critical Race Theory ban recently signed into law, is also considering a run. Toth ran against Brady in 2016 and barely fell short of forcing a runoff.

State Rep. James White (R-Hillister) announced recently that he will not be running for re-election to the Texas House. However, he has said that he may run for a higher office, although he will not say which one. Possibilities include challenging Patrick for Lt. Governor or running for Agriculture Commissioner if Miller vacates his post to run for governor.

So there you have it folk. That’s the 2022 primary field as it stands now. However, things change quickly in politics, so be sure to check back here next weekend for an update on the next week of campaign announcements!

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