Alex Constantine - May 31, 2022
PAXTON'S CHECKERED CAREER AS TEXAS AG:
Just before assaulting the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, rioters attending the Trump rally near the White House heard these stirring words: “What we have in President Trump is a fighter. We will not quit fighting. We’re Texans, we’re Americans and the fight will go on.”
These are the words of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Paxton remains proud of that speech, but has repeatedly refused to turn over records of his communications about that rally to reporters in a possible violation of the Texas Public Information Act. That dispute could result in Paxton being prosecuted for violating a key accountability law that his office is simultaneously charged with defending.
Indeed, Paxton has been accused of violating state laws so often that he seems to embody the dark side of what some call “Texas exceptionalism”. For the last seven years, he has been under indictment on three felony charges related to securities fraud. Usually invoked in braggart terms, “Texas exceptionalism” has exceptional downsides: We coddle—and re-elect—politicians who scorn and break our ethics rules and laws. ...
Why Ken Paxton’s supporters in the Texas attorney general race are unbothered by his mounting scandals
Paxton’s backers say they’re looking past the FBI investigation into Paxton and his felony indictment because he’s a strong conservative advocate fighting the Biden administration.
SPRING BRANCH — On the first day of early voting for his Republican primary runoff, Attorney General Ken Paxton spoke to a crowd of supporters where he barely acknowledged the contest and totally ignored his well-known challenger, Land Commissioner George P. Bush.
It underscored a confidence as Paxton closes in on the Tuesday runoff where polls show he is well positioned to beat Bush, who has relentlessly attacked Paxton’s integrity as the incumbent fends off a number of personal and legal scandals. But Paxton’s supporters are unswayed by his baggage — if not outright dismissive — as they stick with him based on his record of battling the federal government in court.
“I really don’t care as long as he’s fighting the fight,” said Chris Byrd, a member of the State Republican Executive Committee who went to see Paxton speak to the Bulverde Spring Branch Conservative Republicans. “Like him or not, Ken Paxton has exhibited more courage in fighting evil than any attorney general we’ve had.”
Paxton was indicted for felony securities fraud charges several months after he first became attorney general in 2015. In 2020, the FBI began investigating him over claims by former deputies that he abused his office to help a wealthy donor. He has denied wrongdoing in both cases.
Bush has said the legal issues make Paxton unfit for office and could risk the important seat for Republicans in November. And he has increasingly attacked Paxton over an even more personal issue: an extramarital affair that he reportedly had that is connected to the FBI probe.
Separately, Paxton is openly feuding with the state bar, which is suing him over his lawsuit challenging the 2020 election results in four battleground states.
But after an action-packed primary with two other prominent GOP challengers — U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert of Tyler and Eva Guzman, a former Texas Supreme Court justice — the race is ending on a relatively low-key note. Public and private polls point to a Paxton victory, though a Dallas Morning News-University of Texas at Tyler poll released Sunday proved to be an outlier in giving Paxton only a single-digit lead. More Republican officials, like Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, have coalesced behind Paxton, while Gohmert and Guzman have declined to endorse Bush despite their well-documented objections to Paxton. And Paxton has refused to debate Bush, confident he is already on a winning trajectory.
Bush outraised Paxton on their only campaign finance report for the runoff — $2.3 million to $2 million — though Paxton had six times more cash on hand than Bush did.
Paxton has urged runoff voters to “end the Bush dynasty.” Bush has countered that with an ad where he says he is “proud of my family’s contributions to Texas and America, but this race isn’t about my last name — it’s about Ken Paxton’s crimes.”
At the meeting of the Bulverde Spring Branch Conservative Republicans, which has endorsed Paxton, supporters said they backed Paxton since the beginning of the primary, hardly considered the alternatives and care more about his job performance than his personal legal issues.
“I like that he’s a fighter,” said Colette Laine, a Spring Branch coffee shop owner. “I like that he has a lot of lawsuits out. He’s really utilizing his office.”