Key Obamacare opponent emerges as Trump’s top warrior in mail-in voting battle
Brendan Steinhauser, a Republican strategist based in Austin, said “without a doubt” Paxton has been an effective legal defender of Trump’s policies, and added that Paxton has been one of the attorneys general most closely aligned with Trump.
In response to a request for comment, Paxton’s office referred CNN to previously issued press releases.
“He’s an extreme conservative who plays political hardball,” said Jeffrey Abramson, a professor of law and government at the University of Texas at Austin. “He subscribes to a libertarian philosophy which puts an emphasis on individual rights and very, very little emphasis on there being any common good or public good at all.”
Government overreach everywhere
Under President Barack Obama, the fiercely conservative Paxton saw government overreach everywhere: the Affordable Care Act, environmental regulations, transgender access requirements for bathrooms, overtime rules. Paxton sued the Obama administration 27 times, according to Paul Nolette, a political science professor at Marquette University who tracks state attorney general activity.
Since Trump took office, Paxton has filed 20 multi-state briefs in the US Supreme Court supporting the administration’s position in a case since the start of the administration, according to Nolette, and another 20 multi-state briefs in lower federal courts.
Paxton is a leader among a high-profile group of Republican state officials who have been fighting for Trump policies far from the legislative gridlock of Washington, DC. Along with Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, and Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, Paxton has become a leading defender of Trump’s conservative policies across the country.
“The state attorney general office is and has become a really important and powerful statewide office, because they represent the legal position of their state,” said Nolette. “Having Ken Paxton as a defender of Trump administration policies … allows Ken Paxton to become really one of the leaders in the conservative movement, defending conservative policies.”
From legislator to Texas’ top cop
After serving in the Texas statehouse for a decade and then state senate for less than two years, Paxton launched his bid for Texas Attorney General in 2014 when now-Gov. Greg Abbott decided to run to succeed Rick Perry, who was retiring.
“In the legislature, (Paxton) didn’t have much of an impact,” said Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University. “When he was in the House, he was sufficiently on the far right that he wasn’t a major player, in that he was both relatively new and then on the ideological extreme.”
Paxton’s office referred questions about the case to his campaign, which did not respond.
“He has been under indictment for practically the entire period that he’s been in office, and voters don’t seem to be bothered by it,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a professor of political science at the University of Houston.
Shifting focus from DC to Texas Democrats
Since Trump took office, Paxton has focused his opposition on Democratic moves in his own state to oppose the administration’s policy moves.
“For eight years, the opposition was located in DC, in the figure of Barack Obama,” said Jones. “Now it’s more located in Democratic-held cities and counties within Lone Star State.”