Republican Texas AG, After Beating Impeachment Push, Targets GOP State House Members Who Turned on Him

‘With your help we will redeem the Texas Courts and The Texas House,’ Ken Paxton said in a statement. ‘Texas, it’s time to clean house.’

Brandon Bell/Getty Images
Texas's attorney general, Ken Paxton, greets President Trump at the 'Save America' rally on October 22, 2022, at Robstown, Texas. Brandon Bell/Getty Images

With the GOP primaries in Texas less than two weeks away, the state’s attorney general, Ken Paxton, is campaigning in the Republican primaries against candidates who supported his impeachment.

Last fall, Mr. Paxton was acquitted in an impeachment trial at the Texas senate after the state house voted to impeach him in the spring. Mr. Paxton was accused of leveraging his position to benefit a real estate mogul, Nate Paul, and retaliating against his own staff who reported him.

Mr. Paxton is still facing a separate criminal trial related to securities fraud charges stemming from accusations that he attempted to solicit investment in a technology company without disclosing that he was being paid to promote the company’s stock.

Allegations aside, Mr. Paxton has endorsed some 35 Republicans challenging the GOP incumbents in the state house who backed his impeachment.

“With your help, we will redeem the Texas Courts and The Texas House,” Mr. Paxton said in announcing his endorsements. “Texas, it’s time to clean house.”

Mr. Paxton’s final primary push comes on the tail end of a lengthy campaign against his opponents within the Texas GOP that included what was billed as a “statewide Fall tour” where Mr. Paxton campaigned for and with some of his endorsees.

“Texas conservatives have seen their State House hijacked by liberal RINO Republicans for far too long,” Mr. Paxton said in a statement on his efforts. “I’m making these endorsements to begin restoring a conservative majority in our state House.”

Mr. Paxton’s effort to remove from elected office party members who backed his impeachment is part of a larger push within the Texas GOP to rid itself of members who do not align themselves with Mr. Paxton and Governor Abbott, who are allies.

In the most high-profile battle Mr. Paxton has waded into — and one that has become personal — he is backing a primary challenger to the Texas house speaker, Dade Phelan, endorsing his opponent, David Covey, and appearing in an ad backing Mr. Covey.   

“Dade has lost his way and is more beholden to the Democrats that elected him speaker than the people who elected him to fight for them,” Mr. Paxton says in an ad.

Mr. Phelan, in turn, responded by attacking Mr Paxton for alleged extramarital affairs and dishonest behavior, saying in an ad, “If Paxton will break an oath to his wife and God, why would he tell Trump — or you — the truth?”

A spokesman for Mr. Paxton, Nick Maddux, responded in a statement: “It’s a bizarre and desperate ad. When you are running ads like this two weeks before early vote, it’s a clear sign the Speaker’s re-election is in trouble.”

While it’s not clear whether Mr. Paxton will succeed in his quest to “clean House,” as he puts it, there is evidence that the Texas GOP primary electorate at large might side with him.

A recent survey from the University of Houston School of Public Affairs found that, ahead of the March 5 primary, the plurality of Republicans, 46 percent, were less likely to vote for a candidate who supported Mr. Paxton’s impeachment.

 The only issue that negatively animated voters more was if a GOP primary candidate voted against Mr. Abbott’s school voucher program, with 60 percent of GOP primary voters saying that would make them less likely to support a candidate.

Mr. Paxton also has a powerful ally supporting his push to drive those House members who backed impeaching him out of office: President Trump.

On Tuesday, Mr. Trump rolled out a set of endorsements largely corresponding with Mr. Paxton’s and targeting Republican incumbents who voted against Mr. Paxton.

According to the University of Houston survey, Mr. Trump’s endorsement is far and away the most common consideration GOP primary voters make in determining who they are likely to vote for in the upcoming Republican primaries in the state.

The survey found that 70 percent of GOP primary voters report being more likely to vote for a candidate if Mr. Trump has endorsed them. For comparison, only 40 percent of GOP voters said the same of an endorsement from Mr. Paxton.

The New York Sun

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