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Attorney General Ken Paxton on Friday endorsed a slate of primary challengers to state House Republicans who voted to impeach him, a new front in his political revenge tour since the Texas Senate acquitted him.
Paxton threw his support behind seven challengers, including those running against House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, and Rep. Andrew Murr, R-Junction, chair of the House impeachment managers. Paxton’s campaign described it as an initial round of endorsements and promised more details soon on a “statewide Fall tour,” including campaign stops with the candidates.
“Texas conservatives have seen their State House hijacked by liberal RINO Republicans for far too long,” Paxton said in a statement. “I’m making these endorsements to begin restoring a conservative majority in our state House.”
Phelan's campaign fired back, saying his constituents "will not be swayed by the West Texas billionaires and their cult of out-of-town political puppets seeking to influence southeast Texas."
The West Texas oilmen Tim Dunn and Dan and Farris Wilks have been top donors to House primary challengers over the years and more recently bankrolled efforts opposing Paxton's impeachment.
The endorsements come about three weeks after the Senate acquitted Paxton in his impeachment trial, ratcheting up a civil war among Texas Republicans. The House overwhelmingly voted in May to impeach Paxton, accusing him of abusing his office to help a friend and donor, Nate Paul.
In total, 60 out of 85 House Republicans voted to impeach him. Two Republican Senators voted to remove him.
Paxton quickly made clear after the acquittal that he would be campaigning against the House Republicans who supported his impeachment.
The seven endorsements Paxton announced Friday were for David Covey, who is challenging Phelan; Wes Virdell, who is challenging Murr; Andy Hopper, who is challenging Rep. Lynn Stucky of Denton; Mike Olcott, who is challenging Rep. Glenn Rogers of Graford; John Perez, who is challenging Rep. Mano DeAyala of Houston; and Matt Morgan, who is challenging Rep. Jacey Jetton of Richmond.
Paxton also backed Brent Money, one of six candidates in the November special election to replace expelled former Rep. Bryan Slaton, R-Royse City.
The conflict between Paxton and Phelan is especially intense. Paxton has repeatedly called on Phelan to resign, but the speaker has said he is not going anywhere.
"While his opponents embark on their political revenge tour, Dade Phelan remains focused on the far more important issues at hand, like cleaning up after the Biden Administration’s disastrous border policies in the upcoming special session and growing the House Republican majority in 2024," Phelan campaign spokesperson Cait Wittman said in a statement.