Buoyed by the support of tea party activists in a low-turnout election, state Sen. Ken Paxton of McKinney on Tuesday won the Republican nomination for Texas attorney general.
“I thank you and won’t let you down,” he told a crowd of supporters at the Frisco Convention Center. “I’m honored you stayed with me in this fight.”
Paxton overcame negative publicity about his ethics and business dealings to defeat state Rep. Dan Branch of Dallas.
In a concession speech to supporters in Dallas, Branch congratulated Paxton and said it was time for Republicans to pull together.
But he also complained about low voter turnout and suggested it played a role in his loss.
"It's not good for our democracy to have such a small portion of our electorate engaged in voting," he said. "With the blessings of freedom and liberty come the responsibility of engaging more."
Paxton, 51, a longtime McKinney attorney, ran extensively on his conservative credentials and campaigned on gun rights and stricter immigration laws. He was supported by Sen. Ted Cruz and endorsed by the National Rifle Association.
In his victory speech, Paxton railed against the federal government and Obamacare and vowed to fight for gun and religious rights.
“Texans want an attorney general who will fight oppression from the federal government,” he said.
Paxton is a longtime McKinney attorney who has served as state senator for District 8 since last year. Before that, he was a state representative for five years.
The Dallas Morning News endorsed Branch, 56, and portrayed the race as a choice between a traditional candidate and a stanch conservative with much less experience.
Paxton paid a $1,000 fine after he acknowledged he had collected money from an investment firm for referring clients but did not disclose the payments.
The attorney general is the chief law enforcement officer in the state, administers a large child support payment system, and also provides legal representation for state agencies.
Paxton and Branch landed in the runoff when neither received 50 percent of the vote in the March election. A third candidate, Barry Smitherman, was knocked out of the race.
Paxton now faces Democrat Sam Houston in the November election but Paxton is the early favorite to replace Greg Abbott. A Democrat has not been elected to statewide office in Texas since 1994.
NBC 5's Ken Kalthoff in Dallas contributed to this report.