AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Primary Runoff Election is on May 24, which means early voting starts in about one week.
One of, if not the, hottest contests during the primaries was the Republican race for attorney general. Three elected officials launched challenges against incumbent Ken Paxton. The result – Paxton is headed to a runoff with Land Commissioner George P. Bush.
KVUE News reached out to Paxton and his campaign numerous times over the past several months to ask that he participate in a debate or sit down with Ashley Goudeau for an interview. KVUE never received a response.
Bush did respond and sat down with Goudeau to discuss his campaign.
Ashley Goudeau: The attorney general race in the Republican primary election was one of the most watched. I would definitely say one of the hottest races on the ticket. At the end of the night, Ken Paxton walked away with about 43% of the vote. You garnered roughly 23%. So there's a sizable gap there. I want you to talk to us about why you believe you're the better candidate for this position.
George P. Bush: "Well, again, I thank KVUE and so many stations around Texas that are covering this important campaign for the future of our state. I've got to say that an overwhelming majority of Texans voted against corruption in the halls of power in Austin. They want clean government. They want responsible leadership who's going to fight for everyday Texas values, not only in the court system, but also confronting judges and mayors that stand up to directives of personal freedom. So I continue my grassroots campaign throughout the state of Texas, reaching out to everyday Texans every single day as part of my Texas Justice Tour, talking about securing the border, backing law enforcement, reaching out to Congressman Gohmert supporters, Justice Guzman supporters. And just yesterday, I met several of Ken Paxton's supporters that are now coming on board. So every day we're winning over hearts and minds and we're going to win this race."
Goudeau: Paxton is painting this race as the establishment – that's his words – want him out of office. And that's the reason why Congressman Gohmert actually ran in the first place, that he is the true conservative in this race. What's your response to that?
Bush: "Well, I find that very rich, considering he's a career politician, a swamp creature who's been around the Capitol for over 22 years. I am implementing my own self-imposed term limits. I believe that we have too many career politicians. And that's why, after two terms of serving you as Texas Land Commissioner, that we need new leadership in this role. It's not conservative to cheat on your wife. It's not conservative to throw the Constitution out the window. And it's not conservative to take bribes from financial donors, which is what this attorney general has done. I will bring a different style of conservatism that will make Texans proud."
Goudeau: I want to talk about obviously when you ran in the primary, you were talking about the fact that Ken Paxton has been indicted. We now have these whistleblower allegations against him. And you have the governor and lieutenant governor now asking the Texas Supreme Court to weigh in on whether or not these whistleblower suits and the subsequent lawsuits of wrongful termination, can actually be handled against an elected official, particularly the attorney general of Texas. I want you to give us some thoughts legally on whether or not you think that those lawsuits should be able to move forward.
Bush: "The Texas Whistleblower Act should apply to all public employees. The whole basis of the Texas Whistle Blower Act is to allow for every day public employees, public servants in state government to discuss corruption, abuse, fraud, mismanagement, and do so with the protection of keeping their employment. And so I disagree with the governor and the lieutenant governor. I believe all levels of the chain of command should be subject to the same laws as everyone else. And frankly, that's the basis for Ken Paxton's abuse of office. He believes he's above the law. In fact, that's why he's not campaigning. That's why he doesn't show up for forums. That's why he continues to write in his own personal legal briefings in this particular case that he's not subject to the law. We can't have – everybody has to be subject to the same standards and the same rules under our Constitution. That's the democracy that you and I have built together and that we should cherish and honor."
Goudeau: You say you disagree with the governor and lieutenant governor. They didn't state a position publicly. They just filed briefs with the Supreme Court, the Texas Supreme Court asking them to make a decision. You think that's the wrong move?
Bush: "Well, they're they're permitted to do whatever they want in their own personal capacity to ask for the Supreme Court to weigh in as to whether or not elected official is subject to The Whistleblower Act. But I do disagree with the notion, if anybody holds it, that elected officials aren't subject to The Whistleblower Act. When you think about Enron or other, MCI, or other massive amounts of frauds that have occurred or the Stafford Company here in Texas, in the private context, apply that to the public sector. You would want your publicly elected officials to be held to the same standard so that their employees feel comfortable notifying the relevant authorities if fraud, crime, abuse is occurring."
Goudeau: If you are elected attorney general, if you win this primary, you're going to win in November, what's going to be your top priority for the state of Texas? What are you doing day one?
Bush: "Day one, we're going to be sending attorneys down to the border, helping our county DA's. We can't operate off of original jurisdiction, meaning bringing cases unilaterally against illegal immigrants under criminal trespassing claims. But we can help out County DA's that are totally overwhelmed on the border. Number two is I'm stepping into the legislature and helping to pass the Law Enforcement Bill of Rights of Texas. Our first responders don't have due process protections in a state like Texas. Fourteen other states have it. Texas does not. And they need a break. Just here in Austin itself, we have a vacancy of over 480 first responders. Morale is low. Recruiting is low. And so we need to do a better job protecting our law enforcement. And finally, I want to confront human trafficking in a more powerful and purposeful way. Working with County DA's, asking the legislation, legislature to increase criminal sentencing for the Johns, the pimps and the perps in Texas because Texas women shouldn't be for sale."
Goudeau: Let's talk about the border. You previously said that this is the top issue facing Texans right now. Why do you believe that is? And what do you feel like beyond sending attorneys down to the border, the attorney general's office can do in terms of curbing, you know, people who are coming into this country unlawfully.
Bush: "As a military veteran who has served in Afghanistan, but also a time in the Southern Command which looks at threats to our nation's security below the Mexican border, I can tell you that what is happening now is nothing short of lawless and disrespectful. So we need to continue the litigation against this open borders policy that we're seeing at the national stage. But in terms of a threat matrix, in understanding the bloody drug cartels and how they're counter surveilling our assets is priority number one. Helping DPS, helping our National Guardsmen that are serving so honorably on our southern border. They don't have that legal support. And I'm just amazed that our current attorney general has not deployed one attorney to help these honorable law enforcement officials. So in many respects, we're catching and releasing criminal defendants the same way that the federal government is doing. And so if we deploy attorneys down to the border, that helps. But secondly, I would say that we needed to draft easements with private ranchers and farm owners that own a majority of the border lands of Texas to allow for the construction of Texas wall in highly trafficked corridors of Texas. So it's a, it's a complicated issue, but legally, there are so many things that we can be doing to at least create a deterrence for the coyotes, the smugglers to think twice about bringing fentanyl and humans across our border."
Goudeau: Obviously, those are really, really big issues when we talk about the drugs and the human trafficking. But when we think about who's getting arrested with these trespassing, these criminal trespassing charges, it's not those folks. Right? So is it a good use of resources, of state resources to send attorneys down there in order to help with those, you know, those kind of low level crimes?
Bush: "It is because many county DA's in border areas, and I've had the chance to travel from El Paso to Brownsville over the course of this campaign, who have very small staffs that are unable to prosecute claims. And under Supreme Court jurisprudence, we can't indefinitely hold criminal defendants, whether they're U.S. citizens or illegal immigrants. So, again, from a national security picture, it was reported by DHS that 23 illegals that were encountered this past year alone were part of the FBI terrorist watch list. In addition to that, to the fact that some estimates by the FBI show that about 1 to 2% of all illegals that come across have prior violent criminal pasts in their countries of origin. So any individual that gets through undetected or detected but within our detention has to be taken very seriously. And as somebody that has put my hand on the Bible to uphold the laws of this state, of the country and the Constitution, and as attorney general particularly, we need to be upholding that promise and that vow for the people of Texas."
Goudeau: I want you to share with our viewers some final thoughts, you think, on why they should elect you later this month.
Bush: "Well, I'm a Christian. I'm a father and husband. I'm very plain and simple. What you see is what you get. I commit to the people of Texas these, like I have these past seven years to wake up every morning and fight for your values and, and the Texas way of life. And whether that's confronting the national government or local or county governments that are standing up to the will of the legislature as reflected through the people. I'm going to be an attorney that's above reproach that will take my vows seriously – to my wife, to the Constitution, to the laws of the state, and do so above reproach."
KVUE News hoped to bring you an interview with Attorney General Ken Paxton but he nor his campaign responded to our requests.
Watch Ashley's full interview with Land Commissioner George P. Bush:
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