After impeachment acquittal, Texas AG Ken Paxton is out for revenge

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Ken Paxton deed nan run way pinch a grin past week.

Beaming successful photos he posted of events successful Collin County, Denton County, Grayson County and Tarrant County, nan Texas Republican lawyer wide campaigned and promoted much than a twelve candidates connected nan ballot successful this week’s primary election.

Most are caller faces to nan Republican Party, because Paxton, nan legally embattled but celebrated statewide official, isn’t seeking to statement up his party’s incumbents: Paxton is retired for revenge.

“It’s clip for a full caller slate successful Collin County,” he wrote successful 1 station pinch a photograph of him and 5 Republican candidates seeking to oust incumbents. Two of them are moving successful nan aforesaid title — his tweet suggests voters prime 1 — but each stock 1 cardinal characteristic successful their primaries: They didn’t ballot to impeach nan lawyer wide past year.

Paxton was impeached on corruption charges by nan Texas authorities House past May, pinch 60 votes coming from his ain party, earlier nan Texas authorities Senate acquitted him successful September and restored him to office.

Now, nan lawyer wide has issued endorsements to candidates successful much than 70 contests, pinch astir going to Republican lawmakers who voted against his impeachment aliases those challenging GOP incumbents who voted for it. His societal media accounts boast a two-page, single-spaced list of endorsements up and down nan March 5 superior ballot.

And he has a powerful state successful his effort: Former President Donald Trump has endorsed a twelve of nan candidates Paxton is backing, making bully connected his committedness to punish those who voted against his longtime ally.

It’s turning an already chaotic superior play successful Texas into yet different battleground successful nan Republican Party’s soul wars.

“What you’re seeing correct now is simply a reflection of what is happening [in] nationalist politics. You’ve seen Donald Trump jump into — I don’t moreover cognize really galore — authorities rep races. Why is he getting progressive that acold down nan ballot? Because it is simply a preservation of legacy,” said Matt Langston, a Republican strategist successful Texas. “It’s ensuring if you’re connected nan incorrect broadside that there’s a consequence to pay.”

Over nan past week connected societal media, Trump fired disconnected endorsement aft endorsement for candidates supported by Paxton. He championed 3 judges Paxton backed for nan Court of Criminal Appeals, which angered Paxton erstwhile it prevented him from prosecuting predetermination fraud, and much than a twelve authorities legislative candidates.

Perhaps Paxton’s apical target heading into Tuesday is authorities House Speaker Dade Phelan, who oversaw nan authorities lawyer general’s impeachment effort. Paxton and Trump are backing Phelan’s starring GOP superior challenger, David Covey.

“David Covey is moving against Dade Phelan, nan Speaker of nan Texas House of Representatives, who led nan Fraudulent Impeachment of nan precocious re-elected, successful a landslide, Attorney General of Texas, Ken Paxton,” publication 1 Trump station connected Truth Social. “Any Republican backing Phelan is simply a fool, and should beryllium disassociated from nan Republican Party — that’s really bad Phelan is, particularly on, Election Integrity!”

Trump Waco TexasFormer President Donald Trump speaks during a run rally astatine nan Waco Regional Airport connected March 25, 2023, successful Waco, Texas.Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty Images file

Covey’s ads successful nan last agelong of nan superior title person heavily touted Trump’s endorsement. In summation to appearing connected nan run trail, Paxton has besides appeared successful immoderate of Covey’s run spots.

“Dade has mislaid his measurement and is much beholden to nan Democrats who elected him speaker than nan group who elected him to conflict for them,” Paxton said in one of Covey’s ads.

Phelan responded to nan attacks from Paxton and Trump head-on successful a recent ad of his own.

“Vengeful Paxton is nan logic Trump’s involving himself successful our race. If Paxton will break an oath to his woman and God, why would he show Trump — aliases you — nan truth?” Phelan said, alluding to nan specifications of Paxton’s extramarital matter that became nationalist during nan trial.

Paxton isn’t nan only awesome fig whose governmental firepower is astatine play successful Texas this season. GOP Gov. Greg Abbott has an endorsement database of his own, often differing from Paxton’s. He’s targeted a number of agrarian Republicans who voted against his schoolhouse prime bill, while lending immoderate governmental screen to nan authorities House impeachment managers.

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been progressive connected nan trail, too, including successful defense of Phelan.

“I’ll beryllium existent honorable pinch you. If you would person told maine 10 years agone you’re gonna beryllium successful Beaumont, Texas, trying to referee a fighting Republican primary, I’d person been, ‘Really?’” Perry quipped astatine 1 event.

“This in-house fighting and each that benignant of stuff, I don’t really understand frankly why it’s happening,” he continued. “I don’t cognize why I request to beryllium successful Beaumont, Texas, telling you that you will beryllium perfectly retired of your mind if you get free of Dade Phelan. I mean, we’re gonna springiness y’all intelligence competency tests.”

The endorsements Paxton is issuing could besides use him down nan statement if he seeks higher office. Between endorsements, he besides frequently attacks U.S. Sen. Jon Cornyn of Texas, who is not facing re-election this twelvemonth but supported Paxton’s impeachment, successful societal media posts.

Here are a fewer of nan candidates Paxton has endorsed successful nan March 5 primary:

  • State Rep. Travis Clardy, a Republican who voted against Paxton’s impeachment and has since sought to betterment nan impeachment process successful nan Texas House.
  • Mitch Little, 1 of Paxton’s impeachment lawyers who is moving for a authorities House seat.
  • State Rep. Gary Gates, a Republican who voted to impeach Paxton but has since expressed regret astatine that vote.
  • Katrina Pierson, a erstwhile spokesperson for Trump’s run who is moving for a authorities House seat.
  • Joshua Feuerstein, a blimpish net characteristic known for opposing same-sex matrimony and abortion rights, said Paxton personally recruited him to situation authorities Rep. Keith Bell, a Republican who voted for nan authorities lawyer general’s impeachment. Feuerstein said astatine nan Jan. 6, 2021, rally astatine nan U.S. Capitol, concluding his remarks pinch a fiery line: “It is clip for war! Let america extremity nan steal!”

Jane C. Timm

Jane C. Timm is simply a elder newsman for NBC News.

Diana Paulsen