As Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial begins today, Rice University political scientist Mark Jones is available to discuss how the state’s chief law enforcement officer hopes to avoid conviction and removal from office.
“No other state attorney general has represented a greater thorn in the side of the Biden Administration than Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton,” said Jones, a professor of political science at Rice and expert on Texas state politics. “Paxton has filed more than two dozen lawsuits to block a wide range of Biden Administration policies ranging from abortion and LGBTQ rights to immigration and the budget.”
Paxton has “a long track record of ethically and legally questionable behavior which dates back to before he was first elected to the office of attorney general in 2014,” Jones said.
“These include the securities fraud indictments which will be the subject of a trial later this year or early next year in Harris County, charges of abusing his powers as attorney general to aid investor Nate Paul, charges of retaliation against whistleblowers, questionable land deals and allegations of an extramarital affair.”
Jones said that in spite of all of these allegations being public information well before the 2022 election cycle, Republican primary voters renominated Paxton in a May 2022 runoff over George P. Bush by 68% to 32%. Paxton went on to defeat his Democratic rival, Rochelle Garza, in the November 2022 general election by a margin of 10 percentage points.
In the trial, Texas' 31 state senators will serve as the jurors with Lt. Governor Dan Patrick serving as presiding judge. One of those jurors is Paxton’s spouse, State Senator Angela Paxton, who will have to recuse herself from participating in the process. However, her attendance will still be a factor when calculating the two-thirds vote needed to convict Paxton on one or more of the articles of impeachment that were approved by a bipartisan majority in the Texas House in May.
Team Paxton’s strategy for him to avoid conviction in the Senate is threefold, Jones said.
“First, his team is encouraging supportive Republican activists, donors, elected officials and candidates to lobby — both directly and indirectly — the 19 Republican state senators in favor of an acquittal,” he said. “For instance, both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have called for Paxton to be acquitted. Second, he and his team are denying the veracity of all of the charges contained in the articles of impeachment. Finally, they argue that even if the senators are not convinced of Paxton’s innocence on some or all of the charges, in all but one case this is not germane since all of these events occurred prior to Paxton’s most recent election to the office of attorney general in November of 2022.”
Jones, who also serves as the Joseph D. Jamail Chair in Latin American Studies and a fellow in political science at Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, is a Texas and U.S. political expert and has been quoted widely in local, state and national publications. To schedule an interview, contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 832-466-6535.