Runoffs will decide several top statewide races

WILL WEISSERT, Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A scramble to fill statewide offices in one of the biggest turnovers in Texas government history began with Tuesday’s primary, but several of the key contests will require runoffs to decide a final winner.

Six of Texas’ top offices lack an incumbent, and while many of the Democrats ran unopposed in their primaries, crowded fields in the Republican races for attorney general, comptroller and commissioners for agriculture and railroads likely won’t conclude until the top-two finishers square off May 27.

Attorney General Greg Abbott is running for governor, and grass-roots favorite and state Sen. Ken Paxton of McKinney won a three-way GOP race to succeed him but failed to capture a majority. He will face state Rep. Dan Branch, a key ally of Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, in the runoff.

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Democrat Sam Houston, an attorney from Houston, was unopposed for his party’s attorney general nomination.

There was also no majority won in the Republican race for agriculture commissioner. Former state Rep. Sid Miller of Stephenville will compete with fellow former state lawmaker Tommy Merritt of Kilgore in a second round of voting.

On the Democratic side, entertainer Kinky Friedman — who has run unsuccessfully for both agriculture commissioner and governor in the past — launched another bid for agriculture commissioner, this time promising to push for legalizing marijuana. He’s headed to a runoff against Jim Hogan, a little-known rancher from Cleburne who has done only minimal campaigning.

“Obviously a straight-up win is what you always want, but we knew this was going to be a tough sell for some folks in Texas,” Friedman said in a statement. “Our camp has taken on a tough issue, and we’re not backing down because this is what’s right for the people of our great state.”

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Other races were still too close to call late Tuesday — including the Republican contest for comptroller, where state Sen. Glenn Hegar of Katy held a sizable lead over Kerrville state Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, who was in second place. The pair appeared headed to a runoff while the race’s other two candidates, former state Rep. Raul Torres of Corpus Christi and tea party activist Debra Medina, trailed by wide margins.

The attorney general race’s lone Democrat, Houston businessman Michael Collier, won his party’s nomination.

Meanwhile, Republicans Malachi Boyuls of Dallas, Becky Berger of Frisco, Ryan Sitton of Houston and former state Rep. Wayne Christian of Center vied for the party’s nomination for railroad commissioner. Clinching the Democratic railroad commissioner nomination was Steve Brown, a former Fort Bend Democratic Party chairman.