TX Attorney General: With expanded mail-in voting, Trump would have lost Texas in 2020

(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)

Election reform and voting rights legislation is about the hottest of hot buttons right now. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton lit a match and tossed it on the fire as he participated in a podcast this weekend. Paxton said that Donald Trump would have lost the state of Texas if he, as attorney general, had not pursued lawsuits in several counties in the state that tried to vastly expand mail-in voting.

Paxton was interviewed by Steve Bannon, a former adviser to Trump. During the interview, Paxton spoke about mail-in voting in Texas and the lawsuits he challenged to prevent liberally-controlled counties from expanding Texas election law without the authority to do so. Rogue liberal county officials attempted to take advantage of the already expanded provisions to accommodate the coronavirus pandemic during early voting. For example, some Democrats officials, such as in Harris County, attempted to mail every registered voter in the county a mail-in ballot application. Harris County has 2.4 million registered voters. Fortunately, the Texas Supreme Court ruled against the county clerk, Chris Hollins. Harris County is not set up for universal mail-in voting and has never offered it in past elections. Republicans objected to such a blatant attempt to go around current election laws. Paxton participated in 12 lawsuits filed to allow the rogue Democrats to essentially make up early voting allowances as they saw fit to do.

The attorney general rightly said that successfully challenging the lawsuit in Harris County was an essential must-win situation. There is a saying in Texas politics – as Harris County goes, so goes Texas. Democrats are winning big counties in Texas due to winning county-wide elections in recent election cycles. Paxton asserts that if universal mail-in voting had been allowed, Texas would have ended up with the same election result challenges as other states did. Harris County flipped to being a Democrat-controlled county in 2018.

“If we’d lost Harris County—Trump won by 620,000 votes in Texas. Harris County mail-in ballots that they wanted to send out were 2.5 million, those were all illegal and we were able to stop every one of them,” Paxton told former Trump adviser Steve Bannon during the latter’s War Room podcast on Friday.

“Had we not done that, we would have been in the very same situation—we would’ve been on Election Day, I was watching on election night and I knew, when I saw what was happening in these other states, that that would’ve been Texas. We would’ve been in the same boat. We would’ve been one of those battleground states that they were counting votes in Harris County for three days and Donald Trump would’ve lost the election,” the Republican official said.

We can debate if Paxton is correct in his reasoning or not. It’s a legitimate discussion to entertain. Democrats are pulling out all the stops to turn Texas back into a blue state. There have been strong streaks of purple in the state for several election cycles, especially at the county and city levels. All of the major cities are led by Democrats. The question is why would this be a discussion that Paxton wants at this time?

Paxton is up for re-election and is expected to have several challengers in the Republican primary. One challenger has already officially announced – Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush. Trump has announced he will make an endorsement in the race. Will he endorse Paxton, with whom he has a working relationship, or will he endorse George P. to jab JEB! in the eye, along with the rest of the Bush family? George P. is a longtime Trump supporter, much to the disappointment of his family, if we are to believe press reports. Both Paxton and George P. are optimistic of securing Trump’s endorsement.

Did Paxton go down this path with Bannon to remind Trump of his work during the 2020 election cycle? Paxton has some personal baggage that will play a part in his re-election bid, he is under federal indictment and has been for much of his time as attorney general. Bush has already exploited that in his first interviews, as expected. George P. is running on restoring integrity to the office. That is taking a page out of his Uncle W.’s playbook – you may remember that when W. ran against Al Gore in 2000, he was all about cleaning up the White House after the Clinton scandals.

Maybe Paxton is worried and thinks Trump will endorse Bush, the opportunity to stick it to the family is too great to pass up. Trump values loyalty and this would be an endorsement that would reward George P. for his loyalty, even at the expense of going against the rest of his family.

Democrats are running with Paxton’s quotes, as could be predicted. The ‘voter suppression’ tropes are writing themselves.

Election reform and voting rights will be addressed in a special session of the Texas legislature later this summer. Republicans failed to get the job done in regular session, a top priority of Governor Abbott, and frankly, voters of both parties throughout the state.