Race for North Texas state senate turns to negative ads

The race for one North Texas state senate seat is turning ugly with early voting just a week away.

Republican candidates Angela Paxton and Phillip Huffines are now running negative ads against one another, and there's a lot of money pouring into the race, too.

In all likelihood, whoever wins the Republican primary to State Senate District 8 is going to win the election.

Candidates only have a few weeks to try and gain an edge, and both are doing so by trying to sew doubt in voters’ minds about their opponents.

Matthew Wilson is an associate professor of political science at SMU. He says he’s not surprised that the two staunchly conservative candidates are doing something to separate themselves.

“They agree on essentially everything,” Wilson said. “So it comes down to which individual voters are going to feel more comfortable with.”

Neither Paxton nor Huffines are desperate for name recognition. Paxton is a former educator and the wife of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Huffines is the brother of State Senator Don Huffines. He is also a businessman and a former Dallas County GOP chairman.

“The challenge is both to take advantage of that name recognition while at the same time differentiating themselves and carving out their own personal niche,” Wilson said.

But with little differences on policies, negative ads can be used to create a rift. In one ad, Huffines appears to imply wrongdoing by the Paxtons by hinting at security fraud charges her husband is fighting.

But Wilson says it's a fine line that Huffines could cross.

“Many Republican primary voters are going to be convinced that Ken Paxton has done nothing wrong,” Wilson said. “On the other hand, there is at least this whiff of scandal about the Paxton family that Huffines could play on to create some doubts in voters’ minds.”

Meanwhile, Paxton's ad appears to try and paint Huffines as not as conservative.

“If Paxton can create the sense that Huffines is an insincere conservative or a Johnny-come-lately to the conservative movement, that could create just enough doubt in some conservative voters’ minds,” Wilson said.

The battle to sew doubt is now fully underway with less than a month to go until the primaries.

There are already millions of dollars pouring into the race. It is the sole state senate seat up for grabs.

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