May 14, 2014

Dan Branch best-suited as AG nominee

The opponent’s recent reprimand by a state board causes further concern.

The Republican runoff race for Texas attorney general pits two Dallas-area lawmakers against each other: state Sen. Ken Paxton of McKinney and state Rep. Dan Branch of Dallas.

In the March primary, Paxton led a field of three with 44 percent of the vote to Branch’s 33.5 percent.

Before the primary, the Star-Telegram Editorial Board viewed Branch’s six terms in the House of Representatives, with leadership roles on the Committee on Higher Education and Legislative Budget Board, as better qualifying him to be the Republican candidate as the state’s chief lawyer.

That feeling is even stronger today as the May 27 runoff election approaches, because just this month the Texas State Securities Board reprimanded Paxton for violating the Texas Securities Act by soliciting investment clients without being registered. He was fined $1,000.

Although the reprimand involved only one case within the five-year time period covered by state regulations, the online Texas Tribune said the investigation found Paxton involved in unregistered solicitation activities at least three times (in 2004, 2005 and 2012).

The senator’s campaign office dismissed the violation as an “administrative oversight” and expressed pleasure the matter had been resolved. But two local police associations, in Allen and McKinney, have withdrawn their endorsements of Paxton over those violations.

“This is a criminal offense which could possibly be tried by the presiding District Attorney or even possibly the Office of the U.S. Attorney General,” the McKinney Police Association said in a statement.

The Texas attorney general runs an office that includes 700 attorneys who represent all state agencies. That chief lawyer also oversees the collection of court-ordered child support payments and the Crime Victims’ Compensation.

Branch, who also has experience on the House appropriations committee, is well-suited to run the state’s huge law firm.

Whoever replaces Attorney General Greg Abbott should keep the emphasis on state issues rather than constantly picking fights with the federal government.

The Star-Telegram Editorial Board recommends Dan Branch in the Republican runoff for attorney general.

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