AUSTIN, Texas - Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton won reelection Tuesday, adding to Republicans' decades of dominance in the state’s top offices despite a slew of legal problems and dysfunction in his agency.
Paxton secured a third term as Texas’ top lawyer, setting up America’s biggest red state to continue mounting conservatives legal challenges to the administration of Democratic President Joe Biden on issues including immigration policy, voting and access to abortion.
Paxton’s victory in the midterm elections came in the face of an uncommon array of controversies, including disciplinary action by the state bar, an ongoing FBI investigation and a long-delayed trial on securities fraud charges. Paxton, 59, has denied any wrongdoing and bested first a formidable field of Republican primary opponents and then Democratic challenger Rochelle Garza with backing from former President Donald Trump.
Garza, a former ACLU attorney from the Rio Grande Valley, played up Paxton’s legal troubles in seeking to become the first Texas Democrat elected to statewide office in 28 years. But the first-time candidate struggled with low name recognition and a considerable fundraising disadvantage in the expensive statewide race. Paxton and Garza never met for a debate and their contest drew far less donor attention than Democrat Beto O’Rourke’s unsuccessful challenge to Gov. Greg Abbott, despite the attorney general being seen as the more vulnerable incumbent.
Paxton attacked Garza as too liberal for Texas and highlighted her work as a defense attorney for people charged with transporting migrants who illegally crossed into the U.S. from Mexico.
Paxton is set to begin his third term under a legal cloud.
The State Bar of Texas has brought a lawsuit seeking to discipline him over his failed effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election based on bogus claims of fraud. He is also yet to face trial on 2015 state securities fraud charges that have been hung up by legal challenges to the venue and the prosecutors’ pay.
And federal prosecutors have not yet decided whether to bring charges in the FBI investigation of Paxton that was launched in autumn 2020, when eight of his top deputies accused the attorney general of using the office to help a political donor who employed a woman with whom Paxton acknowledged having had an extramarital affair.
Paxton has broadly dismissed the bar lawsuit, pending charges and accusations from his former staff as politically motivated assaults on a champion of conservative causes.