Barely 24 hours after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was impeached by a resounding vote (121-23) of the state House of Representatives dominated by his fellow Republicans, questions were being asked within and outside the Lone Star State about the future of its nationally known lawman.
Whom will Gov. Greg Abbott, also a Republican, name as interim attorney general while Paxton is tried by the state senate? And, were Paxton to be removed by the senate and thus barred from ever again holding office in Texas, would his wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, carry on for him in a bid for statewide office?
Reports of Paxton's plight made Page 1 of The New York Times and topped the news in several national networks. The two-term attorney general was impeached specifically for requesting payment of a settlement from state funds with four former staffers who had reported to the FBI that Paxton had used his office to benefit a wealthy donor.
Only the third state official in just over a century to be impeached, Paxton — a close ally of Donald Trump and a fixture on cable TV — now faces a trial by the state senate (also firmly in GOP hands).
Most observers of Texas politics insist that there just aren't enough votes in the 31-member Senate —19 Republicans, including Angela Paxton, and 12 Democrats — to reach the two-thirds needed to bring down the embattled attorney general.
"I don't expect it," Travis County (Austin) Republican Party Chairman Matt Mackowiak told reporters, adding that Paxton supporters from Trump himself to Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, to conservative radio talk show host Charlie Kirk have used social media to denounce what they regard as a "witch hunt" against Paxton.
"Despite the long list of charges against Paxton, his supporters will use every possible avenue to claim this is all a Democratic plot," a former state Republican Party official who requested anonymity told Newsmax. "Text messages have been sent to local activists, and Paxton asked his supporters to not only call legislators but to show up and rally for him in the House chamber when the vote was being taken. In fact, they were issued 'Paxton' stickers to wear at the Capitol."
Should Paxton be removed and banned from holding office again, it is likely he will follow the example of the last statewide official to face the same fate: former Democratic Gov. James "Pa" Ferguson, who was impeached and removed from the governorship in 1917 over alleged misuse of public money. Ferguson's wife, Miriam "Ma" Ferguson, emerged as his chief cheerleader and went on to be Texas' first woman governor from 1924-26 and 1932-34.
Much like Ma and Pa Ferguson, Ken and Angela Paxton are considered a close political team. In the event Ken is brought down, Angela is likely to carry on and very possibly seek statewide office herself in 2026 (when Abbott is likely to step down after 12 years).
Despite Paxton's long string of controversies and charges that he violated the law, his following among grassroots conservatives in Texas is rock-solid. Last year, he won renomination in a landslide over George P. Bush, namesake nephew and grandson of presidents, and then rolled up 53% of the vote in November.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
© 2023 Newsmax. All rights reserved.