Democrats are on the offensive against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, whom some accuse of inciting mob violence to overturn the presidential election.
In a statement Thursday, Grand Prairie state Rep. Chris Turner demanded an investigation into Paxton following Wednesday’s insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Paxton spoke at the pro-Trump rally in D.C. before the assault on the Capitol, where the attorney general encouraged supporters to keep fighting for President Donald Trump shortly before they invaded the Capitol building, which CNN reported resulted in five deaths.
Turner accused the Texas attorney general of playing a “major role” in the first breach of the Capitol since the War of 1812.
“Paxton’s actions would be shameful for any elected official, but are especially so for the top law enforcement officer of the state,” Turner wrote.
Paxton's office didn't return our requests for comment, but his spokesman told The Dallas Morning News that Turner's statement was "utterly unhinged and absurd."
To Texas Democrats, this isn’t the only demerit on Paxton’s record. He’s also faced securities fraud charges, filed a “frivolous” lawsuit in December seeking to overturn the election, and is under FBI investigation, according to The Associated Press.
Even though Paxton has evaded penalty up to now, many liberals believe his Capitol speech should serve as his political coup de grace.
Paxton initially condemned the violence in a tweet Wednesday, but two hours later he spread a right-wing conspiracy theory that Antifa was to blame.
He captioned the post: “These are not Trump supporters.”
These are not Trump supporters. pic.twitter.com/ptcNp2lzrG— Attorney General Ken Paxton (@KenPaxtonTX) January 6, 2021
Turner wrote that when the 87th legislative session begins this week, state lawmakers should hold Paxton accountable for attempting to “subvert the will of the American people.” Suggestions include passing laws to limit the attorney general’s jurisdiction, decreasing appropriations to Paxton’s office and limiting the use of funds appropriated. Turner also floated the idea of censure or impeachment.
Other Texas Democrats are applauding Turner’s move, including Carrollton state Rep. Michelle Beckley. The Texas Democratic Party is also demanding Paxton’s resignation, which they say should have happened “months ago.”
“There’s not a single person I know who has anything good to say about Paxton,” said party spokesman Abhi Rahman. “That tells you something, especially in a state that is right now controlled by Republicans.”
In the wake of the riot at the Capitol, it’s clear that Paxton has blood on his hands, said Zack Malitz, treasurer of the Boot Texas Republicans Political Action Committee. By peddling conspiracy theories about a stolen election, it motivated Trump supporters to attack the Capitol.
It’s equally damning that the attorney general continued to parrot unfounded conspiracies the same day the Capitol was besieged, Malitz said. Paxton is responsible for the bloodshed in the same way that Trump is, and needs to be held accountable.
“Even being at that rally makes him complicit in the violence that happened shortly afterwards,” he said. “We support an investigation; we support an impeachment effort. Even if it fails to remove him from office, it’s the right thing to do.”
Having Democrats criticize Paxton likely won’t adversely affect him, said Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University, but it could amplify Republicans’ anxieties about backing him as a candidate when he’s up for reelection in 2022.
To Republicans, Paxton may seem like too much of a liability, Jones said; on top of his other indiscretions, he’s been accused of marital infidelity and of impropriety regarding a Collin County land deal.
There could be a concerted effort by Texas Republicans to persuade Paxton not to run, Jones said. Failing that, they may draft a strong candidate to run against him.
Still, Paxton’s devotion to Trump likely played well with the president’s base and could win him the Republication nomination for attorney general once more.
“He’s following the Trump party line hook, line and sinker,” Jones said. “If you are a Trump supporter, it’s one more reason to like Ken Paxton.”
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.