Valley lawmakers united in Paxton impeachment

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House members line up to question Rep. Andrew Murr, R-Junction, Chair of the House General Investigating Committee, during the impeachment proceedings against state Attorney General Ken Paxton in the House Chamber at the Texas Capitol in Austin, Texas, Saturday, May 27, 2023. (Eric Gay/AP Photo)

The Rio Grande Valley’s elected lawmakers in the House of Representatives were unified on Saturday.

Republican and Democrat alike, each border legislator voted to impeach embattled Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton — the third time this has ever happened in the Lone Star State’s history.

The historic proceeding saw an overwhelming bipartisan vote in a state where Republicans — the majority — and Democrats — the minority — are deeply divided with 121 lawmakers voting to impeach and just 23 voting against.

Paxton has been dogged by scandal since he took office.

The attorney general has been facing securities fraud charges for eight years. Prior to those charges being levied, Paxton in 2014 admitted to violating Texas securities laws, according to the Associated Press.

There is also an ongoing FBI investigation into corruption accusations brought by former aides, who filed a whistleblower lawsuit against Paxton after they were fired.

Paxton and the former aides settled for $3.3 million and Paxton asked the Legislature to have the taxpayers foot that bill, which appears to have prompted the House investigation that resulted in his impeachment.

State Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, who said he was the only Democrat to speak during the impeachment proceedings, issued a statement via Facebook on Saturday addressing the allegations against Paxton, which include bribery, abuse of office and obstruction.

“No one is above the law, and public officials must be held to the highest standards of integrity and ethics,” Canales wrote.

The lawmaker called the allegations against Paxton as being “deeply concerning,” meriting a fair trial in the Senate.

“Moving forward, I am confident that the Senate trial will provide a fair and impartial resolution to the accusations against Attorney General Paxton,” Canales wrote. “The people of Texas deserve nothing less.”

It’s not immediately clear when the Senate will hold a trial.

Canales said elected representatives have a duty to serve the best interests of their constituents.

“Our focus must remain on serving the needs of the people of Texas and working towards a future where integrity, transparency, and public service are the hallmarks of our state government,” Canales wrote.

State Rep. Janie Lopez, R-San Benito, also issued a statement on Saturday regarding her vote to impeach Paxton.

“The allegations and evidence put forward by members of the General Investigating Committee are deeply troubling and compelling,” Lopez said in a statement. “It was my responsibility to cast a ‘yes’ vote and forward the process to the Senate, where the Attorney General will stand trial.”

The only other Republican from the Valley, Ryan Guillen, R-Rio Grande City, also voted to impeach. He did not respond to a request for comment on his vote.

The voting board is lit with a majority of green lights as the house votes to impeach state Attorney General Ken Paxton in the House Chamber at the Texas Capitol in Austin, Texas, Saturday, May 27, 2023. Texas lawmakers have issued 20 articles of impeachment against Paxton, ranging from bribery to abuse of public trust as state Republicans surged toward a swift and sudden vote that could remove him from office. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Armando “Mando” Martinez, D-Weslaco, did issue a statement to The Monitor.

He said justice requires the rule of law to be applied evenly and fairly to all Texans.

“After months of deliberation and investigation with the existence of strong evidence detailing Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s continued abuse of power for personal gain, retaliation, disregard of official duty, constitutional bribery, obstruction of justice, dereliction of duty, and abuse of public trust, I voted in favor of his impeachment because nobody is above the law,” Martinez write.

Rep. Oscar Longoria, D-Peñitas, who was a co-author on the bill to impeach Paxton did not respond to an email requesting comment. Neither did Rep. Sergio Munoz, D-Mission.

Spokespersons for Reps. Erin Gamez, D-Brownsville, and R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen, also did not respond to emails requesting comment.

The Monitor also reached out to state Sens. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Morgan LaMantia, D-Brownsville, who will preside as impartial jurors during the Senate trial.

LaMantia’s chief of staff, Reed Johnson, said she has no official comment regarding the impeachment process before the Senate.

Texas state Attorney General Ken Paxton makes a statement at his office in Austin, Texas, Friday, May 26, 2023. An investigating committee says the Texas House of Representatives will vote Saturday on whether to impeach state Attorney General Ken Paxton. (Eric Gay/AP Photo)

Hinojosa did not respond to an email asking for comment.

The newspapers also reached out to spokespersons for U.S. Reps. Monica De La Cruz, R-McAllen, and Vicente Gonzalez, D-Brownsville, for comment early Sunday afternoon, but neither responded as of press time.

Paxton, however, is not without his supporters — the most notable being former President Donald Trump who is running for office. He tweeted his support for Paxton, who sued during an attempt to overturn the 2020 election that favored President Joe Biden. He has also filed numerous lawsuits against Biden challenging his policies.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz also came out in support of Paxton, calling his impeachment a travesty.

“For the last nine years, Ken has been the strongest conservative AG in the country. Bar none,” Cruz wrote on Facebook. “No attorney general has battled the abuses of the Biden admin more ferociously — and more effectively — than Paxton.”

Cruz said all of the “information” in the 20 articles of impeachment against Paxton were public before Election Day and voters still reelected Paxton.

“In my view, the Texas Legislature should respect the choice of Texas voters,” Cruz wrote. “That’s why the swamp in Austin wants him out. The special interests don’t want a steadfast conservative AG.

“I understand that people are concerned about Ken’s legal challenges. But the courts should sort them out.”

Cruz’s counterpart from Texas in the U.S. Senate, John Cornyn, however, has apparently remained silent on the impeachment.

As of Monday afternoon, Cornyn has not issued a statement.

But a little more than a year ago, during Paxton’s runoff with former Land Commissioner George P. Bush for the Republican nomination, Cornyn didn’t shy away from his feelings during an interview with the Texas Tribune when he said the longtime indictment against Paxton was disturbing.

As for Paxton, he issued a statement on Twitter following his impeachment calling it a politically motivated shame and said he was not allowed to present evidence and testimony during the House investigation.

“Unfortunately, they refused to consider anything that would interfere with their desired result,” Paxton wrote. “They disregarded the law, ignored the facts, and demonstrated contempt for Texas voters.”