The attack ads suggest that Paxton sees Gohmert as a bigger threat than the other two Republicans in the race — Land Commissioner George P. Bush and former state Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman.
Earlier this month, Paxton's campaign launched TV ads exclusively in East Texas, which is Gohmert's home base. Then an anti-Gohmert mail piece surfaced from the Paxton campaign. And on Wednesday, Paxton launched Facebook ads targeting Gohmert.
Paxton has criticized individual challengers before this election cycle, but the anti-Gohmert effort marks the first time he is spending real campaign money against one of them. And it comes as Paxton is looking to capture a majority of the vote on March 1 and avoid the protracted fight that comes with a runoff.
As a hardcore conservative who has aligned closely with former President Donald Trump, Gohmert is the most politically alike Paxton — and perhaps the most likely to siphon off the support that Paxton needs to win outright.
Paxton has theorized as much, saying in December that Gohmert was "talked into" running by people who "know that Bush can’t win the primary, and they need votes taken from me to make this a race for Bush." On the campaign trail, Gohmert regularly laughs off the suggestion that Bush allies recruited him.
Gohmert's campaign is taking encouragement from being the focus of Paxton's ire.
"The fact that our compromised AG is only attacking me also tells you that he recognizes the real conservative in the race," Gohmert said in a recent statement.
Stacy McMahan, the president of the conservative group East Texans for Liberty, said Gohmert has always enjoyed a strong home-field advantage, saying "folks out here love Louie Gohmert." She agreed that Gohmert has emerged as Paxton's biggest threat in the primary.
"He is, I do believe, and I don't believe it's just in East Texas," said McMahan, whose organization has not yet endorsed in the primary. "There's people in San Antonio that I'm aware of that are working really hard and a lot of folks in West Texas."
Paxton's anti-Gohmert campaign began on Jan. 11, when the attorney general launched the first TV ad of his reelection campaign. While the spot was positive, touting Paxton's confrontations with the Biden administration over immigration policy and his endorsement from former President Donald Trump, the markets the ad aired in were revealing: Tyler and Shreveport, Louisiana. Those are the two markets that cover Gohmert's 1st Congressional District in East Texas.
Then it came out that Paxton was going after Gohmert with at least one mail piece that directly attacked him. Complete with darkened, unflattering images of Gohmert, the mailer hit him for voting to raise his congressional salary over the years "despite missing hundreds of votes that impacted tax paying Texan families."
The Facebook ad, meanwhile, gets at a hotly debated subject in the primary: Trump's endorsement of Paxton. While the attorney general captured the coveted endorsement months ago, Gohmert regularly casts doubt on it on the campaign trail, suggesting Trump endorsed Paxton after wrongly assuming Gohmert would not run.
"Who is Trump's pick for Texas Attorney General? Not Louie Gohmert," the Facebook ad reads.
Gohmert has also gone tough on Paxton, joining the the other Republican primary candidates in attacking Paxton's integrity as he battles ongoing criminal accusations. Gohmert, however, has been perhaps the most vocal, filling his stump speeches with speculation about the amount of legal jeopardy that could be still to come for Paxton.
"Ken Paxton is under indictment for securities fraud and facing a federal investigation for bribery and corruption, so Louie Gohmert is running to save Texas and restore honesty and integrity to the office of Attorney General," Gohmert says in his own online ads.
Paxton was indicted on securities fraud charges shortly after he took office in 2015, and he more recently came under FBI investigation over allegations by former top staffers that he abused his office to help a wealthy donor. He has denied wrongdoing in both cases.
Both men have been at the center of controversies related to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol. Paxton spoke at the pro-Trump rally that preceded it, and he has been fighting efforts to get him to release his communications from that day under open-records laws. Meanwhile, it has been reported that Capitol Police were concerned that Gohmert was possibly encouraging political violence in the lead-up to Jan. 6.
There has not been any recent public polling of the primary. In early December, shortly after Gohmert began his challenge, Paxton said he did not think he was on track for a runoff.
Paxton has more than enough money to take on Gohmert. As of the end of December, Paxton had over $7 million saved up, while Gohmert, who launched his campaign in November, had $882,000.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2022/01/26/ken-paxton-louie-gohmert-texas-attorney-general/.
The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.
During the tranquil one-third of our lives that we spend asleep, the human body does something that might not seem restful at all: REM sleep, short for rapid eye movement, is a phase of sleep that consumes 90 to 120 minutes of an adult human's day and as much as nine whole hours for a newborn baby. In this phase of sleep, your eyes twitch randomly and repeatedly, and sleepers have their most vivid dreams; people awakened from REM sleep often feel as though they really happened. Scientists note that parts of the neocortex, which is associated with higher forms of thinking, begin to activate seemingly at random.
Though REM is only a minority constituent of the time spent sleeping, it is perhaps the most enigmatic stage. What the purpose and function of REM sleep is, and why we do it, is still a mystery.
Now, a new study published in the scientific journal Neuron suggests that REM sleep may have evolved to help us protect ourselves from predators. In other words, it is a remnant of an earlier stage of human evolution, in which hominids had to be on the lookout for danger everywhere, even — perhaps especially — at night.
Dr. Wang Liping from the Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Technology (SIAT) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences led a research team that placed animal subjects in a sealed chamber and monitored their brain activity as they slept. In order to simulate the feeling of believing a predator is nearby, they exposed the animals to the odor of trimethylthiazoline, which is similar to the odor of a predator. By doing this to different animals during various stages of their sleep cycles, they were able to compare how quickly the animals were aroused from their slumber based on which phase they were in. As it turned out, animals were more quick to be aroused if they were in a REM cycle than if they were in an NREM (not REM) cycle.
The scientists also found something interest in the brain of those animals who were exposed to a "predator" during the REM cycle of their sleep. Neurons in a region of the brain called the medial subthalamic nucleus, and which produce a hormone associated with stress called corticotropin, gave their animal hosts a lower threshold for waking up than the animals who in NREM sleep. Those animals were also more likely to have highly defensive responses after being aroused.
"Together, our findings suggest adaptive REM-sleep responses could be protective against threats and uncover a critical component of the neural circuitry at their basis," the authors conclude. Their findings have implications for treating mood disorders and other conditions that could be related to a neurological linkage between sleep and fear.
This is not the first study to link REM sleep to defense against predators. A 2013 paper in the journal Dreaming by by Ionnanis Tsoukalas of Stockholm University in Sweden hypothesized that many of the physical states associated with REM sleep are similar to tonic immobility, or the state in which animals pretend to be dead and therefore seem unappealing to predators they can neither fight nor outrun. Tsoukalas notes that people in REM sleep cannot move, which is similar to how some animals freeze when frightened, and people in REM sleep also share tonic immobility traits like altered breathing and heart rates, altered thermoregulation, suppression of reflexes and even extra "theta" waves in one's EEG patterns (these are derived from the hippocampus and are linked to spatial awareness and memory). According to this hypothesis, even the vivid dreams we experience during REM sleep could simply be our brain sorting out potential threats.
There are many other purposes to REM sleep. Scientists have demonstrated that REM sleep is linked to consolidating spatial and contextual memories, and it is generally agreed that babies have more REM sleep in adults because their brains are in such a highly formative stage in their development. REM sleep is also linked to heightened creativity, with a 2018 article in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences advancing a novel theory: That NREM sleep is a period in which the brain begins a process of problem solving by separating important information from mere noise, and then REM sleep completes it by searching abstractly through that information to find possible connections.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s Neuralink technology, which sounds like something out of a science fiction movie, recently hired a director for clinical trials. The idea behind Neuralink is to implant coin-shaped devices that would allow people to operate computers and mobile devices with their brains. And in the scientific world, journalist Noah Kirsch reports in an article published by the Daily Beast on January 25, Neuralink is inspiring a lot of debate.
“In spite of the never-ending momentum for the world’s richest man,” Kirsch explains, “scientists are worried about the company’s oversight, the potential impact on trial participants, and whether society has meaningfully grappled with the stakes of fusing big tech with human brains.”
Neuralink has already been tested on animals, but testing it on people takes the technology to a whole new level. One of the scientists who has strong reservations about Neuralink is the University of Wisconsin’s Dr. Karola Kreitmair, an assistant professor of medical history and bioethics.
Kreitmair told the Beast, “I don’t think there is sufficient public discourse on what the big picture implications of this kind of technology becoming available are. I worry that there’s this uncomfortable marriage between a company that is for-profit.”
But Kreitmair also said that “this technology has the potential to be life-changing for people who are paralyzed” even though it “raises such a slew of ethical concerns.”
Another scientist who has strong reservations about Neuralink’s technology is Dr. Laura Cabrera, who specializes in neuroethics research at Penn State University in State College, Pennsylvania.
Cabrera told the Beast, “With these companies and owners of companies, they’re kind of showmen. They’ll make these hyperbolic claims, and I think that’s dangerous, because I think people sometimes believe it blindly…. I’m always cautious about what (Musk) says.”
The 50-year-old Musk, a Gen-Xer and native of South Africa, is now, as Kirsch notes, the wealthiest man in the world — a position once held by former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates and later, investor and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett. Musk, who founded Neuralink in 2016, is estimated to have a net worth of $243 billion, according to Forbes.