Paxton’s legal troubles haven’t amounted to political ones
Ken Paxton, the Texas attorney general, has faced his share of legal concerns in recent years, something that George P. Bush, his rival in the primary this year and the state’s land commissioner, has seized upon as he seeks to oust him from office.
But, if history is any indicator, Bush has his work cut out for him.
In March, Paxton topped the primary field with 43 percent of the votes, short of the 50 percent required to win the nomination outright. Bush placed second with 23 percent, and their runoff election is on Tuesday.
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Paxton has labeled Bush, a nephew of former President George W. Bush, the “liberal land commissioner,” accusing him of supporting the teaching of critical race theory in schools. Bush, meanwhile, has been airing ads calling attention to Paxton’s legal troubles. Paxton was indicted on charges of securities fraud in 2015, which remain pending, and the F.B.I. is investigating accusations of abuse of office and bribery. Paxton has denied any wrongdoing, and his office did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.
In interviews, Bush has said that the major difference between him and Paxton is that he’s “not out on criminal bond.”
Paxton “has routinely led the attorney general’s office into scandal after scandal,” said Karina Erickson, a spokeswoman for the Bush campaign.
Bush’s campaign is also warning that those legal issues could prevent Paxton from appearing on the ballot, which would give Democrats a victory. But the secretary of state’s office pointed to a statute in the state’s election code that complicates that theory: Paxton would have to be “finally convicted” of a felony — meaning he would have to be convicted of a crime and have completed the appeals process — in order to be ineligible to run for office.
Since Paxton hasn’t stood trial yet in the securities-fraud case, and hasn’t been charged by the F.B.I., it is highly unlikely he will be removed from the ballot this year, said Joshua Blank, research director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas. It would take a lot for Paxton to lose the runoff, Blank said, let alone become the “type of serious vulnerability” that Republicans would worry about in the general election. He was re-elected in 2018, after the indictment.