Texas AG Paxton steps in it on 2020 election, employee lawsuit. Had enough yet, GOP?

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Ken Paxton has demonstrated, once again, that he’s a ticking time bomb for Texas Republicans.

The attorney general was in El Paso last week to announce a lawsuit against the Biden administration over border security. A woman in the crowd asked him about standing up to the “overthrow” of President Donald Trump in last year’s election. She used the term twice, to which Paxton said: “I agree with you.”

Not a good look for an official who brought an absurd lawsuit in which Texas tried to intervene in other states’ election laws on Trump’s behalf.

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected that idea without a hearing. Paxton suffered another legal blow last week, as a state appellate court declared that, despite the attorney general’s protestations, he is not above the law.

Paxton argued that as an elected official, whistleblower protections for his employees don’t apply to him. It was a lame attempt to dismiss a suit brought by four former employees who alleged that the AG illegally tried to help a campaign donor with legal issues.

Paxton survives on his reputation as a righteous conservative. Republican voters have propelled him to two terms. But what’s conservative about an elected official trying to stand above the law? What’s conservative about endorsing an unfounded conspiracy theory about the 2020 election? What’s conservative about arguing that states should be able to meddle in one another’s elections?

Let’s not forget, too, that the whistleblower allegations were no “deep state” coup attempt. Several of those who accused him of wrongdoing were hand-picked loyalists, known as solid conservatives themselves.

Paxton came the closest of any state GOP officeholder to losing in 2018, despite facing an unknown Democratic opponent. Other Republicans sense weakness, and the AG has three significant primary challengers so far.

Each would pursue a similar conservative agenda: suing the Biden administration, defending religious liberty, pursuing election fraud cases. Each would probably be stronger than Paxton in next year’s general election.

Unseating an incumbent, even one with obvious blemishes, is hard. But as last week proved, GOP voters should ask themselves: Why, exactly, is Ken Paxton worth all this trouble?

Editor’s note: This column originally appeared in our opinion newsletter, Worth Discussion. It’s delivered every Wednesday with a fresh take on the news and a roundup of our best editorials, columns and other opinion content. Sign up here.

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