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Endorsement watch: First of many for Sam Houston

The Statesman gets an early start on endorsement season.

Sam Houston

Sam Houston

A famous name can be a mixed blessing in politics. Sam Houston, the Democratic candidate for Texas attorney general, has persuaded us that he is more than just a name, and he is the best person in the race to succeed current Attorney General Greg Abbott.


Houston is clear about the direction that he would take the attorney general’s office, returning its focus to legal matters of the state rather than tilting at windmills by filing lawsuits against federal government agencies. He takes the position of the state’s defender seriously but suggests that there are other tools to be used rather than expensive lawsuits that take resources from the office’s other functions.

“It’s the job of the AG to define what is in the best interest of Texans, and I intend to return the office to that purpose,” he said.

Houston would bring a fresh eye to an office that in our estimation has strayed from its primary functions. In addition to being the state’s primary legal officer, the attorney general is charged with investigating Medicaid fraud, issuing open records rulings, collecting child support, upholding consumer protection statutes and prosecuting white-collar crime.


In the time since [Ken] Paxton’s last visit, troubling reports of ethics violations have come to light, including a pending complaint with the state’s Public Integrity Unit and the State Bar of Texas that Paxton violated conflict-of-interest rules when he failed to register as an investment adviser representative.

Paxton accepted a reprimand and $1,000 fine from the State Securities Board in May for soliciting clients for a Texas investment firm without registering, as required by state law, and without disclosing that he would receive 30 percent of management fees.

He and his campaign have said that it was an oversight, despite the fact that Paxton voted to approve and clarify the state law as a state representative. And the complaints raise the specter of the state’s top attorney facing a possible grand jury investigation and indictment while attempting to carry out the duties of the office. This is unacceptable.

Even without the legal concerns, it would be difficult to endorse Paxton. He appears ready to use the office to fight the battles of national politics at the expense of concerns of the state. His rhetoric about protection of freedoms — state’s rights, reproductive rights and religious freedom — appear to be only applicable to those whom he agrees with.

Note that Paxton declined to meet with the Statesman’s board for this endorsement interview, though he did so during the primary campaign. That will almost certainly be the norm among the top GOP candidates, and as I’ve said before, it’s because they believe they’ve already talked to all the voters they care about. That’s one reason why I expect Dems to do very well in newspaper endorsements this year, for whatever value that brings. I have a hard time imagining any non-ideological reason for any paper to endorse Paxton over Houston given Paxton’s multiple legal and ethical problems. Similarly, I don’t expect any paper to side with Dan Patrick over Leticia Van de Putte, in this case due to his extremeness and obnoxiousness. Mike Collier is definitely better qualified to be Comptroller than Glenn Hegar, but Collier has never run for office before, and his bluntness might be a turnoff to some delicate soul out there in Editorial Board Land. As for Davis versus Abbott, again I think the choice should be clear, but again I figure at least one of the major dailies will find some reason why they don’t like her. I’ll be happy to be wrong about that. Again, I doubt these endorsements means much, but better to have them than not have them.

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