Bud Kennedy

May 27, 2014

Dems have ray of hope in contest for attorney general

A fine and a reprimand of Republican Ken Paxton came up too late to change the runoff, but Democrat Sam Houston might make it more of an issue.

For 20 years, winning the Texas Republican primary has led to winning the general election.

If Democrats have any chance to change that this year, it might be in the race for attorney general, where McKinney Republican Ken Paxton steps up from the Texas Senate and into a potboiler of a race for Greg Abbott’s old office.

Paxton vanished for most of the runoff campaign after he got a $1,000 fine and reprimand May 2 from the State Securities Board, which found he collected a 30 percent commission for referring an investment client to a Dallas firm but didn’t register or disclose his role.

The state found that Paxton violated regulations three times but could punish him only for a 2012 deal.

Although there is at least a theoretical possibility that he’ll be criminally prosecuted, the only punishment expected is a political bruising in the fall against Democrat Sam Houston, a 25-year Houston litigation lawyer who led the party’s ticket as a 2008 candidate for judge.

For example, Paxton told KERA/90.1 FM that “there’s no lawyer out there who’s an expert” and that securities registration is “very complicated.”

If a basic ethics disclosure is too complicated for Paxton, Houston might well ask whether Paxton needs to be attorney general.

At midday Tuesday, Paxton thanked an Arlington Republican women’s club for voters’ support and name-dropped lawyers like former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and presidential candidate Rick Santorum who have stayed on his side when others switched.

Paxton said that when the accusations came up late in the runoff, he wasn’t sure whether he had violated the rules but that “we have resolved the issues with the state.”

“Just like you do if you make a mistake on a tax return, you resolve it quickly as you can,” he said.

He now has five months to resolve it with Texas voters.

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