Eva Guzman airs early ads in bid to stand out in crowded primary for attorney general

Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman at The Texas Tribune Festival on Sept. 20, 2014.

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One of the Republican primary challengers to Attorney General Ken Paxton is launching TV ads earlier than usual in a bid to stand out in the already crowded and contentious race.

Radio and TV ads pitching former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman as a "fearless conservative" with an extensive legal background will begin airing statewide Monday, her campaign told The Texas Tribune. Her campaign said it intends to spend seven figures on such ads between now and primary day, currently set for March 1.

The media buy is among the first known TV advertising of its kind in any 2022 statewide contest — and shows how active the race to unseat Paxton has already become. In addition to Guzman, Paxton faces challenges from fellow Republicans George P. Bush, commissioner of the Texas General Land Office, and Matt Krause, the Fort Worth state representative. Former President Donald Trump has endorsed Paxton.

Limited public polling has shown Guzman is far behind Bush and Paxton. But she has been financially competitive, and her campaign called the new media buy “significant.”

“We know that Justice Guzman is the most qualified candidate to be Texas’ Attorney General and look forward to taking her message to every corner of the state,” Guzman consultant Justin Dudley said in a statement.

It is still relatively early for TV ads in statewide campaigns. Earlier this month, one of Gov. Greg Abbott's primary challengers, Don Huffines, ran an anti-Abbott commercial during the Texas-Oklahoma college football game, saying it was part of an "aggressive, six figure media buy for fifteen markets across the state."

Paxton has drawn a lineup of serious primary challengers amid a raft of legal problems, including a securities fraud case that dates to his first months in office in 2015. He more recently came under FBI investigation over claims from former top staff that he abused his office to help a wealthy donor. He has denied wrongdoing in both cases.

While all of Paxton’s primary opponents have been harshly critical of him, Guzman’s ads do not mention the incumbent and instead stay positive, discussing her biography. They also allude to what she sees as her main advantage in the primary — her long resume as both an attorney and judge.

In her 30-second TV ad, Guzman says she has “the courtroom experience to fight the Biden administration’s radical agenda — and win.”

“Eva Guzman has the experience, integrity and conservative principles we need for Texas attorney general,” a narrator says in the minute-long radio spot.

There has not been much public polling of the primary. But a survey released last month by The Dallas Morning News and University of Texas at Tyler found Guzman had the support of only 5% of likely voters. The poll was conducted before Krause entered the race.

Yet Guzman has been a robust fundraiser, collecting $1 million in the first 10 days of her campaign. During the two most recent fundraising periods, covering July 7 through Sept. 2, Guzman raised $221,000 to Paxton's $112,000. Bush, meanwhile, brought in $311,000.

On their latest filings with the Texas Ethics Commission, the candidates did not have to disclose their cash-on-hand totals, which show how much money they have to spend on things like TV ads.

On the Democratic side of the race, there are at least two candidates: former Galveston mayor Joe Jaworski and Lee Merritt, the nationally known civil rights attorney from North Texas.

Disclosure: The Texas General Land Office has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.