BEAUMONT, Texas (Nexstar) — In a new campaign ad, Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, is defending what could be one of the biggest threats to his re-election: the impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Speaking directly to the camera, Phelan comes out swinging in his first sentences attacking Paxton and his alleged misconduct, saying it ultimately led to further alleged misconduct and abuse of office that the House impeached Paxton for.
It starts bluntly, with the speaker saying Paxton “had an affair with a Senate staffer,” referring to accusations of his alleged affair that was a key part of the impeachment allegations.
“Vengeful Paxton is the reason Trump’s involved himself in our race,” Phelan said at the end of the spot. “If Paxton will break an oath to his wife and God, why would he tell Trump — or you — the truth?”
Last May, the House impeached Paxton in a 121-23 vote, accusing him of engaging in misconduct and abuse of office to help Austin real estate developer Nate Paul, Paxton’s friend and campaign donor. In September, the Senate held an impeachment trial and acquitted the attorney general on all 20 articles.
Affair allegations were central in Paxton’s impeachment trial
Impeachment managers tried to make the case that the extramarital affair compromised the attorney general’s ethics, alleging that Paxton engaged in bribery and other illicit behavior to cover up his infidelity to his wife — State Sen. Angela Paxton, R-McKinney.
One of the 20 articles of impeachment claimed Paxton “benefited from Nate Paul’s employment of a woman with whom Paxton was having an extramarital affair.” During the Senate trial, Paxton’s former chief of staff said that her boss had confessed to cheating on his wife.
The attorney general has maintained his innocence, and his legal team downplayed the affair as an impeachable offense throughout the Senate trial.
Since his acquittal, Paxton has been on a revenge tour against the Republicans who voted against him, with Speaker Phelan being his primary target. The attorney general has relied on his close alliance with former President Donald Trump, who endorsed Phelan’s opponent in the Republican primary, David Covey.
Phelan and Paxton’s adversarial relationship
Right before the impeachment inquiry was publicly announced, Paxton called for Phelan’s resignation, accusing him of being intoxicated on the job. The attorney general was referencing a video of the speaker on the House floor after a 14-hour workday, in which Phelan appeared to slur his words.
Just minutes after Paxton publicly blasted the speaker, the House committee tasked with investigating legal and ethical violations convened to issue subpoenas concerning Paxton’s settlement payment to whistleblowers.
Other Texas Capitol observers defended the speaker while referencing the other video from the House floor in which Phelan sounds more coherent.
Nexstar reached out to a spokesperson from Paxton’s campaign but did not immediately hear back.