BELTON — State Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, squeaked out a win in the Central Texas Republican Women’s attorney general straw poll Wednesday. Branch was one of two candidates for Texas’ top cop position to stop by the Wildflower Country Club in Temple.

Branch, who received 20 votes, beat State Sen. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, by one vote in the nonbinding poll. Barry Smitherman, the current chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission, was only able to garner 10 votes.

Smitherman’s low performance in the straw poll could be attributed to his decision to send his wife, Marijane, to Temple while he attended a Texas Alliance for Life leadership luncheon in Austin.

Like most Republicans running this year, both candidates and Marijane Smitherman played up their respective anti-federal government, anti-President Barack Obama credentials.

The preponderance of candidates for state office who are running against Obama led Paxton to quip that “even the agriculture commissioner guys are talking about their fights with Obama.”

Both of the candidates and Marijane Smitherman dressed their remarks in the rhetoric of battle. Citing his record of working for President George W. Bush, Branch said he had “worked hard in the trenches” of conservatism.

All three speakers laid out their track records of opposing the federal government.

Branch mentioned his successful sponsorship of a bill allowing public school students a moment of silence.

Paxton trumpeted his co-sponsorship of Senate Bill 14, which established Texas’ voter ID law. Smitherman said her husband had filed “seven lawsuits against the EPA.”

Paxton called the Affordable Care Act, voter ID and religious liberties “the critical issues of our day” and encouraged those assembled to “think about the lawsuits (U.S. Attorney General) Eric Holder has brought against Texas.”

Without mentioning specific lawsuits, Paxton cited “voter ID and redistricting” as examples of what he felt were the Department of Justice’s overreach.

One of the only policy proposals the candidates addressed was when they were asked their opinions on border security.

Both Branch and Paxton said that, in their time in the Legislature, they had both voted to secure the border.

Branch said he was opposed to amnesty and Paxton said he voted to “send boats, helicopters and DPS troopers” to the border.

Smitherman said her husband was in favor of allowing local law enforcement officials to ask the attorney general’s office for assistance and that he wanted to enact a zero-tolerance approach to border security.

“Barry wants to prosecute every crime on the border,” Smitherman said. “Whether it’s littering or jaywalking, he wants to send a message that you can’t come in through Texas.”

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