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Texas leaders say GOP is moving toward being more grassroots-based after Paxton's acquittal

In the aftermath of Attorney General Ken Paxton's acquittal, GOP leaders in Texas see a change coming. “It’s changing from the Bush era to the non-Bush era," said former Texas Congressman Steve Stockman.

Published: September 27, 2023 11:00pm

Updated: September 28, 2023 11:20am

Multiple elected officials and leaders in the Texas GOP say that the recent acquittal of Attorney General Ken Paxton is a sign that the Texas Republican Party is moving towards being more "grassroots-based" and away from the "Bush/Karl Rove" establishment. 

“It’s changing from the Bush era to the non-Bush era," said former Texas Congressman Steve Stockman in an interview with Just the News. "It’s moving away from Karl Rove. The whole thing is people are sick and tired of it. Rove hates the grassroots."

In May, the Texas GOP House voted 121-23 to impeach Paxton on 20 articles that included bribery and abuse of public trust. The Senate did not take up four of those articles. 

The remaining 16 articles of impeachment that he faced included alleged use of power and office to help donor-investor Nate Paul work through legal difficulties. Paxton was also accused of accepting bribes in the form of renovations to his home. One of the articles of impeachment involved Nate Paul allegedly giving a job to a woman with whom Paxton was having an extramarital affair.

Paul, who once gave Paxton a $25,000 campaign contribution, was indicted in June on charges of making false statements to banks. He has pleaded not guilty. 

Paxton was reinstated to office last week after the state Senate voted to acquit him on all 16 articles. The charge to impeach was led by Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan. Last weekend, the Texas GOP approved a resolution 52-2 that called on him to resign and if he doesn't, there should be a "vote to vacate the chair and allow for a new Speaker who has pledged to honor and support the priorities and principles of the Republican Party to be elected.”

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) said via social media Phelan is “undeserving of his leadership position.”

Former Orange County GOP Chairman David Covey, who is Phelan's primary opponent, said that the best way to defeat Phelan would be at the polls. 

"I think that if enough House members had enough courage to vote to vacate, it would work," Covey told Just the News. "We will have to beat him at the polls, and I think there is enough support in the district to do that."

Covey explained that he actually decided to primary Phelan before the impeachment of Paxton but after that failed, it fired up the grassroots. 

“I think the last eight years there has been that struggle between the grassroots and politicians," he said. "This [impeachment] brought people to engage. It showed people what was going on at the state level and party level. I think this was a pivotal moment for the party to discover who they are and show we have to focus on the grassroots and not those on the top.”

During an interview with former Fox host Tucker Carlson on X, formerly Twitter, Paxton said that he believed the impeachment was retribution by certain Republicans for lawsuits he filed challenging the results of the 2020 presidential election, as well as lawsuits against the Biden administration regarding the southern border. 

He also has stated that former George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove was behind ousting him along with several other Republicans, according to The Texas Tribune. He referred to Rove as an “activist liberal working effectively for the Biden administration.”

"The Texas establishment was hoping they could take back over," Latinos for America First Executive Director Bianca Gracia said. "I think this failed very miserably. The grassroots is kicking back in all directions because of the election integrity issue. There have been more groups forming and more activism."

Texas State Rep. Steve Toth who left the Texas Freedom Caucus over Paxton's impeachment said he wants to see the Texas GOP focus on school choice and the border. 

In regard to the Paxton impeachment, Toth said Phelan's behavior was "shameful." 

“I think the speaker has a lot to give an account for," Toth said. "The impeachment of Paxton was a joke. He pushed this and he should be ashamed of himself. After it fell down, he asked his supporters to double down. You don't do that as a leader."

Speaker Phelan has not responded to requests for comment.

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