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Collin County voters are in for a local version of Family Feud in next year’s race for state Senate.
Politics is full of families, but the prospective contest between Angela Paxton and Phillip Huffines is unusual. She’s the spouse of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who’ll also be on the ballot. He’s the twin brother of Don Huffines, a Dallas state senator who, as it turns out, will be on the ballot in an adjacent district.
Huffines and Paxton are both hatching campaigns that could easily cast them as surrogates of their already-elected kin. That's a harder road, perhaps, for Paxton. Ken Paxton, the former occupant of the Senate seat these folks are after, is now the attorney general, facing re-election next year along with a trial on securities fraud charges. The trial is set for Dec. 11 — also the deadline for candidates to file for office. If things go well for him in court, they’re likely to go well for him — and maybe for Angela Paxton — when Texans vote. If not, things get stickier.
Huffines has this advantage: People in the Dallas-Fort Worth area have seen and listened to his family’s car ads for years. Establishing a new politician’s name is often expensive part of a campaign; Huffines’ name is imprinted — and would be even if his twin brother hadn’t run an expensive race for state Senate in 2014. And here’s a twist: Both Don, the incumbent from Dallas, and Philip, who’s running for the Collin County-based Senate seat, will both be on the ballot next year.
It’s like a throwback to the Doublemint gum ads.
Geography and money will probably have as much to do with the outcome of the race as novelty, but novelty doesn’t hurt if you’re a new candidate trying to get attention.
Angela Paxton hasn’t run before, but she’s got an advantage, too — geography and an established fundraising network built by Ken Paxton, who held the Senate seat for two years and a Collin County-based state House seat for five terms before that.
It doesn’t hurt that he is the sitting attorney general of Texas — not necessarily a reason for a Republican donor to give money to Angela Paxton’s campaign, but it’s the kind of thing that might make a donor hesitate before writing a check to the opposition.
For different reasons, she’s got a jump on the name thing, too. Paxton is a well-established political name in the district, and she’s probably been to as many political gatherings over the years as some candidates.
Texas has a mess of political families. The Lucios of Brownsville: Eddie Jr. in the Texas Senate; his son, Eddie III, in the House. Carlos and Tomas Uresti of San Antonio, the first a senator, the second a state representative. The Bonnen brothers, Dennis of Angleton and Greg of Friendswood, represent adjacent districts in the House. San Antonio has the Castro twins, Julián and Joaquin. Texans have elected three generations of George Bush to office, from H.W. to W. to P. And state history is full of siblings and cousins and whatnot. Here’s a good one: Dan and L.B. Kubiak, Rockdale Democrats and brothers who tag-teamed a state House seat from 1969 to 1998 (L.B. held it from ‘83 to ’91, Dan the rest of the time, until his death in 1998).
This pending race would pit Paxton, a new candidate with an established name in Collin County politics, against Huffines, whose name is well-known but hasn’t appeared on a ballot outside of Dallas County.
Huffines primed his campaign with $2 million, enough to spook several Texas House members and other local wannabes out of the race. His brother, who’s running in a different district but in the same media market, had almost $1 million on hand at mid-year.
Geography and money will probably have as much to do with the outcome of the race as novelty, but novelty doesn’t hurt if you’re a new candidate trying to get attention. Huffines, the current chairman of the Dallas County GOP, has run in the small part of Senate District 8 that falls in Dallas County — about 15 percent, according to the Texas Legislative Service. In the remainder of the district, Huffines will be the new name on the ballot. They’ve been seeing a Paxton in nearly every election since 2002.
One of them will have a nice start on a family business after March 6.