Let there be an AG debate

I can’t think of any good reason why there shouldn’t be a debate between Sam Houston and Ken Paxton.

Sam Houston

Sam Houston

Democratic candidate for attorney general Sam Houston wants his opponent, state Sen. Ken Paxton, to agree to a debate ahead of the November general election.

Houston is expected to issue the challenge Wednesday at a news conference in Austin, demanding his Republican opponent “quit hiding from the media and the voters,” spokeswoman Sue Davis confirmed.

“To me, this is fair. He’s either going to debate me or explain to somebody why he hasn’t,” Houston said Friday. “How is this guy going to be attorney general if he won’t even address the issues?”

Houston contends his opponent hasn’t made a public appearance in months, ever since Paxton admitted to repeatedly soliciting investment clients over the last decade – a service for which he pocketed up to a 30 percent in commission – without being properly registered with the state as an investment adviser representative.


In response, Paxton spokesman Anthony Holm called Houston’s debate demand a desperate ploy from an underdog candidate.

“It’s not surprising that anyone losing by 20 points – and unable to raise meaningful campaign funds – would want free publicity. Rabidly pushing debates is most often the political equivalent of a Hail Mary pass,” said Holm.

He did not answer follow-up questions about whether Paxton would agree to a debate. Houston was unchallenged in the Democratic primary.

I should amend my statement to say that Ken Paxton has plenty of reasons to not want to be asked questions in a public forum. Houston touched on all that at a press conference where he called out Paxton.

Speaking to reporters at the Austin Club, Houston said the public should question his Republican opponent’s openness and trustworthiness after Paxton admitted to repeatedly soliciting investment clients over the last decade without being properly registered with the state as an investment adviser representative.

“Mr. Paxton has voted to make certain conduct a felony. He then has knowingly violated that conduct before and since,” said Houston. “Now he says, ‘don’t indict me, don’t punish me even though I’ve made that a felony for other people. In fact, make me attorney general so I can enforce that statute.’”

Speaking after the event, Houston said “I have faith he won’t” accept the challenge to debate. “He hasn’t so far. Look, I don’t think he can. I mean, he’s going to have to answer that question and I don’t think he can answer it.”

Issues he’d like to address in a hypothetical debate include his opponent’s litigation experience as well as recent open records rulings dealing with volatile chemicals and Gov. Rick Perry’s travel schedule issued by outgoing Attorney General Greg Abbott.

Looking very much the trial lawyer, Houston stood between three exhibits showing the Texas Securities Act and the disciplinary order Paxton signed in early May admitting to the violation. Paxton was fined $1,000 and issued a reprimand. Texans for Public Justice, the same watchdog group that filed the original complaint against Gov. Rick Perry that eventually led to his August indictment, has also filed a complaint over Paxton’s noncompliance with the state ethics commission.

Houston repeated criticisms Paxton hasn’t spoken to the media “as far as I know” in 120 days, specifically citing an incident in late-July when Paxton spokesman Anthony Holm physically blocked San Antonio Express-News reporter Nolan Hicks from asking him questions.

“You can’t hide behind spokespeople,” said Houston. “That’s Exhibit A that this man should not be attorney general.”

Paxton’s spokesperson then denied the charge, which kind of proves the point. I mean, the dude has issues, and I’m not talking about the kind that candidates like to discuss. There’s a Debate Challenge Clock on Sam Houston’s website now. I don’t expect it to need to be stopped.

Honestly, though, Paxton’s sins aside, I can’t think of any good reason why we shouldn’t have at least one debate among the candidates for all offices, especially this year when every single one is open. Not that I’d expect, say, Glenn Hegar to want to square off against Mike Collier any more than Paxton would want to face Houston, but you’d think it would be a worthwhile endeavor on its face. I mean, when city elections roll around next year I guarantee that nearly every candidate for every office, from the top Mayoral challengers down to the most anonymous district Council wannabees, will do their best to make it to every candidate forum put on by every club, organization, or random group of concerned citizens around. I’ve been to a bunch of these events myself. All we’re asking for here is one lousy debate. That really ain’t much.

But I don’t expect it. Paxton, like his debate-phobic colleagues elsewhere on the ballot, figure they’ve already talked to all the voters they actually care about. At this point they figure it’s just Democrats and people who don’t pay attention anyway, so why give themselves an opportunity to say something stupid that will turn into headlines? It would be nice if people demanded more, but the people who’d be doing the demanding aren’t the people these guys listen to, so there you have it. Texas Leftist has more.

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