Updated, August 2: Despite being included in a list of endorsements released on Thursday by state Sen. Ken Paxton's campaign for attorney general, conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan says he has not endorsed any statewide candidates.
Sullivan is the president of Empower Texans and Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, which are both based in Austin. "Neither I nor TFR have made any endorsements for statewide office," Sullivan wrote in an email to the Tribune on Friday.
Paxton's campaign issued a correction acknowledging that Sullivan was included erroneously, saying, "While a good friend whose endorsement we hope to have, it was placed without his approval. Any implication on the part of our campaign that we have the endorsement of Empower Texans or Texans for Fiscal Responsibility (TFR) was also not intended."
The campaign indicated that Sullivan has been removed from their list, but added in their statement, "Senator Paxton has enjoyed the strong support of TFR over the years, and hopes to earn their support in this campaign."
Original Story, August 1: Touting himself as a "proven conservative," state Sen. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, announced the launch of his campaign to be the state's next attorney general before a conservative crowd at the Plano Centre on Thursday evening.
Like his competitors, and much like outgoing Attorney General Greg Abbott is wont to do, Paxton emphasized his willingness and determination to challenge the federal government. Citing the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, he said, "President Obama, I have a message for you: Texas will govern Texas."
Paxton pledged that within one month of taking office, he would have delivered his message so strongly that people in Washington, D.C., and particularly U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, would know his name.
"He's the obvious choice to continue Greg Abbott's work standing up for Texas and standing up for our values," state Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, who was in the crowd and who — like Paxton — once unsuccessfully challenged Speaker Joe Straus, said following the speech.
Paxton has served in the Texas Legislature, first in the House and then recently in the Senate, for a decade. In addition to Hughes, other legislators turned up to support him at his announcement.
Before taking the stage, he was introduced by state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker, and state Rep. Scott Turner, R-Frisco. The crowd included state Rep. Van Taylor, R-Plano, state Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, and others.
Discussing the reasons for his support, Taylor cited the consistency of Paxton's conservative record.
"I served side-by-side with Ken Paxton in the Legislature, and I know beyond any doubt that he has the backbone to stand up for conservative principles," he said.
While he was delivering his announcement, Paxton's campaign released the endorsement of 23 House members, as well as conservative leaders like Texas Eagle Forum President Cathie Adams.
Earlier in the day, Branch's campaign released its own slate of endorsements. Five former senior members of Abbott's team in the attorney general's office joined former solicitor general Jim Ho in supporting Branch.
"I’m deeply humbled that General Abbott’s former top deputies have endorsed me as his successor," Branch said in a statement, "and I’m excited about the momentum their support gives to this campaign.”
Branch also has a financial edge. According to the most recent campaign finance totals, Branch has more than $4 million on hand, as compared to Paxton's roughly $1.6 million on hand and Smitherman's $1 million.
The funding disparity did not appear to trouble the enthusiastic crowd at the Plano Centre on Thursday, who cheered when Paxton concluded his remarks, saying, "The eyes of the nation are on Texas."
In the current election cycle, those eyes may be particularly focused on the attorney general's race. With Abbott considered to have a significant lead in the gubernatorial race, the action may very well be down-ballot.