It was a big week for indicted elected officials in the Rio Grande Valley, with one nearly landing the former president’s endorsement and the other announcing a reelection bid despite being accused of leading a voter fraud scheme to win his last election.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is under federal indictment for securities fraud and under FBI investigation for a separate case involving abuse of power, visited the Rio Grande Valley on Wednesday to participate in a security briefing hosted by Gov. Greg Abbott and former President Donald Trump.
The governor and the president teamed up to promote Abbott’s push to have Texas build its own border wall. And while the event was supposed to focus on border issues, elections, whether past or future, were not far from their minds.
In fact, it was the first thing Trump mentioned when he was given the floor.
“Well governor, thank you very much. It was an honor to endorse you and strongly endorse you, highest and best endorsement. And I did notice your poll numbers are through the roof and I’m very happy,” he told Abbott, who is up for reelection in 2022. “And you’ve done a great job….”
At one point, the president appeared to indicate Paxton would soon have his official support, too.
“I’ll tell you what, good luck Ken, and I know you have a race, a little race coming up, huh? And I’ll be making an endorsement of somebody in the very near future,” the former president said. “How many people are running against you Ken?”
“Two,” Paxton replied.
“Two? That’s all?” Trump asked.
“That’s it,” Paxton said.
“Well, that’s not bad for you,” Trump said.
“No. We’re going to do fine,” Paxton responded.
Paxton has already shown his support to the former president, and it may have landed him in hot water.
After the 2020 presidential election, Paxton sued to overturn the results in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The U.S. Supreme Court threw his lawsuit out.
Now the Texas Bar Association is investigating whether his failed efforts to overturn the election based on bogus claims of voter fraud amounted to professional misconduct, the Associated Press previously reported.
Meanwhile, Trump continued with much of the same rhetoric involving alleged voted fraud.
“And we better get our elections straightened out because you’re going to have a runaway country. You’re going to have a banana republic, you’re going to have a third world country here pretty soon cause our elections are a mess,” he said.
Paxton is trying to fix that, at least at the local level.
His office investigated the 2017 Edinburg municipal race, which led to the arrest of Mayor Richard Molina, his wife Dahlia Molina and a slew of others who were charged with illegal voting, among other charges.
Those charges, however, do not appear to faze Molina, who announced Thursday — the day after Trump’s visit — that he is running again in November.
“The feedback that I’ve been getting from the public, honestly they haven’t even touched on it at all,” the mayor said about the charges against him. “Never was that an issue that was brought up by the residents that came (to Coffee with the Mayor).”
If elected, it wouldn’t be the first time a candidate under indictment wins office in Texas. After all, Paxton managed to do it in 2018.
In the U.S., the accused are considered innocent until proven guilty, and it remains unclear when either of them will face their day in court.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect the fact Molina is facing state charges.