|Warren Kenneth "Ken" Paxton, Jr.|
51st Attorney General of Texas
|Assumed office |
January 5, 2015
|Preceded by||Greg Abbott|
Texas State Senator
for District 8 (Collin County)
January 2013 – January 4, 2015
|Preceded by||Florence Shapiro|
|Succeeded by||Van Taylor|
Texas State Representative for
District 70 (Collin County)
January 2003 – January 2013
|Preceded by||David Counts|
|Succeeded by||Scott Sanford|
|Born|| December 23, 1962|
Minot, North Dakota, USA
|Children||Tucker, Abby, Mattie, and Katie Paxton|
|Alma mater|| Baylor University|
University of Virginia School of Law
Warren Kenneth Paxton, Jr., known as Ken Paxton (born December 23, 1962), is an American lawyer and politician who has been since January 2015 the Republican attorney general of his adopted state of Texas.
Paxton was born in Minot, North Dakota, to a military family that lived at times in five states. He graduated from Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and the University of Virginia School of Law in Charlottesville, Virginia.
He resides in McKinney in Collin County with his wife, Angela Paxton, whom he met at Baylor and who is also his political advisor and a current Texas state senator. The couple has four children and are members of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano.
In 2014, Paxton won election as attorney general with support from conservatives and the Tea Party Movement. In the Republican primary, he defeated state Representative Dan H. Branch of Dallas, a director of the John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies at Southern Methodist University, named for John Tower, Texas first popularly-elected Republican senator, who began his career as a staunch conservative but is now considered an icon of Moderate Republicans.
Before he became attorney general, Paxton previously served for ten years in the Texas House of Representatives and two years in the Texas Senate, representing Collin County, north of Dallas.
During much of his tenure as attorney general, Paxton has been sidetracked by personal legal matters. He faces a fraud trial in Houston in December 2017 for having allegedly failed to inform those investing in the technology firm Servergy that he was receiving a commission on sales. At the time, Paxton was still a member of the Texas House of Representatives. The case will be presided over by a Democratic judge, Robert Johnson. Meanwhile, a Security and Exchange Commission complaint against Paxton has been twice dismissed, most recently in March 2017, on the grounds that the attorney general had "no plausible legal duty" to inform investors that he would earn a commission if they purchased stock in a technical company that Paxton represented.
As attorney general, Paxton has fought to keep alive from federal court challenges the state laws requiring proper voter identification, the abolition of sanctuary cities, religious freedom, and the current congressional districting plan, which Democrats claim is gerrymandered to favor Republicans. On June 25, 2018, the United States Supreme Court decided 5–4, that the district lines were drawn in "good faith" in 2013 by Texas state legislators. However, one state House district was invalidated. Democrats claim that the growth of Texas occurs primarily in minority areas, but minorities do not receive equal representation in how legislative lines are drafted.
Paxton's trial was scheduled to have begun on December 11, 2017, coincidentally the last day that he could file as a candidate for re-nomination in the Republican primary on March 6, 2018. If convicted, he could face huge fines and 99 years imprisonment. However, the trial has yet to begin and may not happen until after the November 6 general election in which Paxton is a candidate for a second term. Before Paxton can face the fraud charges, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state's highest criminal court, must decide if the prosecutors in the case are being overpaid. After its summer recess, the appeals court will issue an opinion regarding the pay for the prosecutors in September at the earliest. So the Paxton trial could be delayed until 2019.
Paxton also faces an expanded probe by the state into his $546,700 defense fund, contributions of which have come mainly from family friends. The state did not reveal what it has found in this probe.
In 2017, Paxton came to Laredo to investigate city and county efforts toward border security. He indicated that he was impressed by the coordination among law enforcement agencies" "So often you see turf battle among different law enforcement groups ... and it seems like here the state is very engaged ... but so are all the local officials and the federal officials. So the cooperation is about as good as I've ever seen."
2018 reelection race
Paxton was unopposed in the Republican primary held on March 6, 2018. He received 1,312,135 votes. In the November 6 general election, he defeated Democrat Justin Nelson, an Austin lawyer who garnered 884,376 votes running unopposed in the Democratic primary.
Until late October, Paxton largely ignored Nelson's challenge and refused to engage in debates with his mostly unknown opponent. Then Paxton issued an advertisement in which he contends that Nelson is an "extreme liberal".
Meanwhile, Mrs. Paxton won the Republican nomination for the state Senate District 8 seat being vacated by Republican Van Taylor of Plano, the U.S. Representative-elect for Texas' 3rd congressional district seat held by the retiring long-term Republican, Sam Johnson. Angela Paxton received 32,653 votes (54.4 percent); her intra-party opponent, Phillip Huffines, 27,421 (45.6 percent) In the general election she defeated the Democrat Mark Phariss while her husband defeated Justin Nelson. Phariss had only narrowly won his party nomination over Bryan Chaput, 51-49 percent.
Paxton won a second term as attorney general in the general election held on November 6, 2018. In a close contest, he defeated Nelson, 4,173,538 (50.6 percent) to 3,874,096 (47 percent).
Motor voter issue
In April 2018, Paxton appealed a ruling from U.S. District Judge Orlando L. Garcia, a liberal from San Antonio, ordering the state to comply with the national Motor Voter Act. Garcia signaled prior to his actual ruling that he agrees with the Civil Rights Project which claims that Texas treats motor voter registrations differently from regular registrations. Voters who change their driver's license addresses in person automatically get information on voter registration changes, but those who conduct the transaction online must print out a form and mail it to their new county elections officer, an additional requirement many prospective voters decline to pursue. A Paxton aide said that he believes the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal in Houston "will not give merit to such judicial activism because Texas voter registration is consistent with federal voter laws. We look forward to filing an appeal." The Fifth Circuit set aside Judge Garcia's ruling pending a full appeal on the merits of the case. The matter may not be resolved by the time of the November 6 general election.
Paxton's opponent Justin Nelson sided with the district judge and the Civil Rights Project: "It is offensive and dangerous for the Office of Attorney General to attack a judge personally. Just as offensive, Ken Paxton is trying to make it more difficult to register to vote than it is to renew a driver's license on-line. ... We should make it easier to vote, not harder." The San Antonio Express-News argued that Paxton has made it more difficult for voters to register: "Voter apathy is a big problem in our state. Every election season there is a big push to register more people so they can cast a ballot to offset the pitiful turnout at the polls. Yet here we have civic-minded people who are making the effort to register to vote, but we won't grant them the convenience of changing their [voter] address online. The state should be making it easier -- not harder --for people to register."
Just three weeks before the 2018 general election, Paxton confirmed that voter fraud charges had been filed against four Hispanic women accused of participation in 2016 in an organized ring that focused upon elderly residents in the Fort Worth area to use those senior citizens to generate forged mail-in ballots, many of which were for Democratic candidates. Paxton accuses the women of "assisting" the senior citizens to monitor their choices of candidates or filling out the ballots and having the voter sign the mail-in ballot.
Indictment of African-American sheriff
In June 2018, Paxton announced the felony indictment of Zena Annette Collins Stephens (born July 4, 1965), a Democrat and the first African American to serve as a sheriff in Texas. Elected in Jefferson County (Beaumont) in southeastern Texas in 2016, Stephens defeated two male Anglo opponents, who are charged with misdemeanors - allegedly accepting cash campaign contributions in excess of the legal limit. Stephens also faces the two misdemeanor charges and an additional felony offense of “tampering with a government record.” She did file an amended campaign finance report. Stephens' attorney, Audwin Samuel, said that the charge against his client is "a technical violation of the lengthy and complex election code in spite of her trying to cure that violation once she became aware of its existence. As the community will learn, Sherriff Stephens had no criminal intent in her actions."
Questioning human sexuality programs in public schools
In June 2018, Paxton asked by letter that the Fort Worth Independent School District provide him a copy of its human sexuality curriculum. The district has refused to share the curriculum with parents, and students are not allowed to bring course materials home or photograph the contents. Paxton argued that:
Parents have the right to inspect and review information regarding what their child is learning and participating in while attending school. … By law, public school curriculum should be fully available to the public, and parents retain their constitutional right to direct their own child's upbringing. Denying parental and public access to curriculum of any kind is a clear violation the Texas Education Code.
ISD spokesman Clint Bond said that Paxton's allegations have been exaggerated. The books are part of a classroom set and cannot be taken home by the students in order to prevent them from being lost, stolen, or damaged. Bond said he recalls one email from a disgruntled parent. Bond added that parents can visit their child's school to view the material: "This wasn't something anyone was trying to hide."
Siding with liberal Democratic county judge
In the summer of 2020, Paxton's long-time conservative credentials came under scrutiny when he wrote a trial court asking that a suit filed in Houston by Dr. Steven F. Hotze, executive director of the group, Conservative Republican, be dismissed for lack of standing and jurisdiction. Hotze challenged the designation "non-essential businesses" used during the coronavirus pandemic by Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, who has ruined many businesses with her directives. Hotze even questioned the conservative credentials of Governor Greg Abbott, who has declined to call the state legislature in special session to address the matter of pandemic closures.
- Cindy George and Andrea Zelinski (July 27, 2017). Texas AG Paxton to stand trial in December, judge rules. The Houston Chronicle. Retrieved on October 1, 2017.
- Andrea Zelinski, "Paxton's SEC charge dismissed: No 'legal duty' to disclose commission," San Antonio Express-News, March 3, 2017, p. A3.
- Supreme Court upholds most Texas election districts over charges of racial discrimination. Msn.com. Retrieved on June 25, 2018.
- "Justice Delayed", Texas Monthly, July 3, 2018.
- Andrea Zelinski, "Prosecutors' AG probe expands: Paxton's legal defense fund under scrutiny, federal judge is told," The San Antonio Express-News, October 6, 2017, pp. A3-A4.
- Julia Wallace (September 28, 2017). Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton visits Laredo for first time since taking office. Laredo Morning Times. Retrieved on February 16, 2018.
- Clabough, Raven (September 9, 2019). Texas AG Office Continues Fight for Dignity of the Unborn in Fetal Remains Case. The New American. Retrieved September 9, 2019.
- Election Returns. Texas Secretary of State (March 6, 2018). Retrieved on March 7, 2018.
- Andrea Zelinski (October 26, 2018). Attorney General Ken Paxton launches first attack ad, calls opponent an "extreme liberal". The Laredo Morning Times. Retrieved on October 26, 2018.
- Angela Paxton, Texas attorney general's wife, running for state Senate. The Texas Tribune (September 6, 2017). Retrieved on October 7, 2017.
- Election Returns. Texas Secretary of State (November 6, 2018). Retrieved on November 7, 2018.
- Jeremy Wallace (April 5, 2018). Texas AG itching to appeal to appeal Motor Voter ruling: Final ruling from a federal judge is in the works. The Houston Chronicle, accessed from The Laredo Morning Times on-line. Retrieved on April 6, 2018.
- "State could make voting much easier" (commentary), The San Antonio Express-News, June 1, 2018, p. A12.
- Authorities charge organized ring with voter fraud for generating forged ballots, many for Democratic candidates. Theblaze.com. Retrieved on October 18, 2018.
- Scott Lawrence. Sheriff Zena Stephens, two former candidates, indicted on campaign contribution violations. KFDM.com. Retrieved on June 6, 2018.
- Shelby Webb (June 28, 2018). Texas AG asks Fort Worth ISD to hand over human sexuality curriculum. Laredo Morning Times. Retrieved on June 29, 2018.
- Dr. Steven F. Hotze, "Texas Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton supported avowed Socialist Democrat, Harris County Judge Hidalgo in the lawsuit, Hotze et al. v Hidalgo," Conservative Republicans of Texas, August 4, 2020.