Texans lined up outside the House chamber Saturday morning for the rare chance to watch impeachment proceedings against a state attorney general — an unprecedented event that comes at the tail end of the regular legislative session.
“I’m here to watch history in the making and stand for our Attorney General Ken Paxton,” said Marcia Watson, 60, with County Citizens Defending Freedom, a political nonprofit.
Watson stood in line more than an hour before the impeachment hearing was set to begin at 1 p.m.
The Capitol was busy with visitors taking photos and wandering the halls Saturday morning, but the building was otherwise calm, despite calls from Paxton last night for protesters to come in his defense. When the doors to the House opened, people filed inside, but many seats remained empty when House Speaker Dade Phelan gaveled in around 1 p.m.
Paxton, who has been at the center of several scandals, faces 20 articles of impeachment that House members will debate and vote on this afternoon.
Watson said none of the information revealed by the Texas House General Investigating Committee, which has been secretly investigating Paxton since March, is new to voters, and that voters reelected him despite the accusations and indictments against him.
She called the impeachment proceedings “political theater” and a “distraction” from the other bills that have yet to be voted on before the session ends Monday, and said she and other Paxton supporters planned to pack the gallery.
Seated on a bench outside the Capitol in the shade, Lynn Tozner was the only protester outside on a warm Saturday. She wasn’t sure if Department of Public Safety officers would let her inside with her sign that read “Remove Paxton — unfit for office.”
Although she's eager to see Paxton impeached, Tozner isn’t under any impression that will make a difference.
Tozner said when she heard that Paxton called on his supporters to come “peacefully” protest, she decided to come with her sign.
“I’m not going to let this guy hijack my state Capitol. I’m here to show my opinion,” she said, a distant ice cream truck jingling in the background.
Paxton supporters and critics formed a line outside the House gallery to watch the proceedings — an unusual sight, even during a legislative session.
Rebecca Broughton, who was at the Capitol for a second day since the impeachment was announced, offered stickers that said, “Ken Paxton Texas Attorney General” to those in line. A group wearing bright red T-shirts gladly accepted the stickers. Others quietly demurred.
On the promenade outside the Capitol, two small groups goaded each other over their opposing stances on Paxton.
Silvia Ybarra, an Austin resident who works in health care, told the Tribune that she was rallying in favor of the AG because of his conservative stances on elections and immigration.
“Ken is my hero,” her fellow Paxton supporter shouted across the walkway in front of the Capitol.
“He’s a criminal,” a Paxton critic retorted.
While the two groups lobbed insults about Democratic President Joe Biden and former Republican President Donald Trump, there did not appear to be any threats of violence or unrest.
— William Melhado and Lucy Tompkins