AUSTIN, Texas — In this week's edition of Texas This Week, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush and former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman sit down with Ashley Goudeau to discuss why they're challenging Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in the March Republican primary.
Early voting in the March primary election is about two weeks away, and when it comes to statewide seats, Texas's top Republicans are facing challengers. One race in particular is drawing some big names – three elected officials are challenging Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and all are calling him out on his legal troubles.
Judge Eva Guzman
Ashley Goudeau: You decided to challenge Attorney General Ken Paxton fairly early on in this election season. Talk to us about that decision. Was there something about his performance specifically, or is it just that now was the time that you wanted to change how you were serving the people of Texas?
Guzman: "I left a job that I love to step up for the state that I love. It's Ken Paxton's failure to produce real results for Texans. It's his lack of integrity. It's the fact that seven of his hand-chosen, handpicked attorneys – these are smart men who he chose, who are conservative, these are not Democrats after him like he likes to say, this isn't the Department of Justice after him because he's Ken Paxton – these are allegations brought by his own attorneys. Abuse of office, bribery, fraud – all seven of them signed a letter outlining their concerns about the rule of law and about Ken Paxton's serious, serious malfeasance while in office. It rises to criminal conduct. If it's true, he will be an indicted criminal. If it's true …The fact is, Ken Paxton lost the challenge to the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. In May of 2021, the Supreme Court of the United States dismissed that lawsuit, denied relief, on a technical ground. Ken Paxton lost the Keystone Pipeline Challenge case just two weeks ago. He lost that case. The judge denied it again on a legal doctrine known as mootness, again a failure by Ken Paxton to do his job … Ken Paxton has failed to produce results, and that's because he's distracted. He's got so many legal issues. Honestly, when he walks in the courtroom, when he gives a press conference, the focus is on his legal problems, which he brought upon himself. And they're rooted in very serious – every Texan should be concerned that we have an attorney general who's top staff went to the FBI and said, 'You know, he's guilty. We believe he's guilty of abuse of office and bribery and fraud.'"
Goudeau: This race has become one of the most contested in the Republican primary, drawing other candidates with experience in public service, obviously Land Commissioner George P. Bush, Congressman Louie Gohmert. What makes you the best candidate among them?
Guzman: "Let's talk about experience. George P. Bush had not had an active law license the entire time he's been in office. While he's been without a law license, which by the way $5 a day or so to keep your law license active, I've been teaching lawyers and judges and ruling on the most complex questions in this, in the state. I've stood in the arena, the lawyer of the courtroom as a lawyer. He has not. Then you just look at his judgment, whether it's distributing the Harvey funds in Houston and leaving millions of Houstonians in harm's way, so much so that Commissioner Mark Ramsey called the GLO office categorically incompetent. This is a Republican commissioner. Or whether it's the veterans housing judgment matters – under George P. Bush leadership as land commissioner, the death rate in GLO-run nursing homes was twice, twice the death rate of non-GLO run nursing homes. His response? 'Let me fire the contractors after all of those deaths.' Too little, too late … Louie Gohmert, he and I have been on the campaign trail and I've enjoyed being around Congressman Gohmert. He's a nice man. The bottom line is he hasn't seen a courtroom as a lawyer since 2005. He left for Congress. I understand, I've read, that he's missed 846 votes during his time in Congress. This race comes down to experience, integrity, conservative values, a proven track record. I'm battle-tested, I'm proven ready to lead and I just want to do this job."
Land Commissioner George P. Bush
Ashley Goudeau: Let's start with the obvious question, why do you want to be the next Texas Attorney General?
George P. Bush: "Well, Texans deserve better. We have an attorney general that's facing criminal indictment, an FBI investigation looking into allegations of bribery and corruption. And I believe that Texans deserve a top advocate that's above reproach, not under indictment, focused on the job, going to defend our state against federal overreach, but also take on progressive mayors that are doing everything, for example, here in Austin, such as defunding the police. It's time for a new advocate, a change. Otherwise, Democrats will win this office if we nominate Ken Paxton once again."
Goudeau: You did receive a lot of criticism as land commissioner about how Hurricane Harvey's recovery, that rebuilding of those homes, it was handled. The Alamo, the situation with veterans homes during the pandemic – what do you want voters to know about the job you've done as land commissioner?
Bush: "I'm proud of my track record of the last seven years, whether it is responding to the challenges of our 1.8 million veterans, as a veteran myself, whether it was building over 5,000 homes, in addition to helping 70,000 Texans get back on their feet through a temporary housing program with FEMA – in additional, additionally, taking care of the Alamo, the most precious gem of the state history and making sure that we take back Alamo Street. And we will be announcing very exciting, exciting announcement later in terms of what we're doing to preserve the church in the longer. So when you look at my track record, I've been above reproach. I know it's a low threshold, but not indicted by a state court or under investigation. And I want to bring new ideas to the Attorney General's Office to secure our border, back law enforcement, confront human trafficking and take on areas of criminal law, which I know a lot of your viewers are experiencing firsthand here in the city of Austin with an all-time high rate of violent crime and four homicides, four homicides, this past weekend. We need a change. We need an attorney general that's getting tougher on crime, working with law enforcement and backing or honorable officials that are keeping the watch."
Goudeau: One of your opponents, Judge Eva Guzman, points out that your law license was inactive from 2010 to 2020, so she and others are questioning your ability to legally go after, as you say, the Biden administration. What do you say to that?
Bush: "Well, I've always maintained my bar license since 2003, when I graduated from University of Texas in Austin. And in 2010, I deployed to Afghanistan for a tour of duty and did not actively practice law in the combat zone. When I came back, I ran for land commissioner and I've been using my legal training every single day as land commissioner. My first lawsuit on my first day in office was preventing the shutdown of the oil and gas industry in the city of Denton. I'll continue those lawsuits, whether it's against the Obama administration, where I was successful on the banks of the Red River Endangered Species Act issues and others. And also, I mentioned my Biden lawsuit that I'm bringing under the National Empowerment Control Act. So I'm an active lawyer right now, and I'm ready to lead. I'm the only candidate in this race, whether it's the incumbent or the other challengers, that brings a private sector, a public sector and a military executive experience and know how to hire and fire good people. I'm going to be a great recruiter for young legal talent to come to Austin to serve causes greater than self."
Jan. 31 is the last day to register to vote in the Texas primary election.
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