Attorneys representing Huffman Independent School District have accused Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office of trying to sway the outcome of the March 5 Republican primary election.

Paxton’s office first announced on March 1 that it filed a civil lawsuit against the district’s superintendent and board of trustees.

The lawsuit was in response to a leaked audio recording of Superintendent Benny Soileau encouraging school staff to vote for the “sweet 16” anti-school choice Republicans facing challengers in the primary.

In a Monday legal filing, Huffman ISD contended that the potential election interference committed was the result of the OAG’s lawsuit and not the superintendent’s actions.

“The Attorney General filed this lawsuit as a politically-motivated publicity stunt to help turn out anti-public education voters in advance of the Republican primaries,” read the filing from the district’s outside attorneys, Thompson & Horton LLP.

“Having failed to pass his voucher agenda through traditional means, the Governor vowed to impose it ‘the hard way.’” it continued. “In furtherance of that threat, the Attorney General seeks to use the power—and public funds—of the State to trample upon the rights of local officials who dare to support Texas public schools.”

The filing claims that Soileau did nothing more than provide “several factual statements about the current state of public school funding.”

However, a transcript of Soileau’s comments shows that he went further than that, even instructing the district’s communications director to create a list of the 16 anti-school choice Republicans to “hand out to our staff.”

“If we don’t support those 16 representatives in the upcoming election [and] we roll into the next session, [it’s] almost assured that we’re going to face a universal voucher bill that will change the face of public education for years to come,” the superintendent insisted.

He also tied support for the 16 lawmakers to Huffman ISD’s ability to receive more federal funding, saying that “for us to get that new money—we have to have a good showing in this primary.”

“And I cannot stress that to y’all enough, how important it is that we show up to the polls and show them [sic],” Soileau added.

Huffman ISD also believes a suit based on the recording “impermissibly invades protected speech” and that Soileau should receive prosecutorial immunity.

The school district requested that the state District Court in Harris County deny the prosecutors’ plea for a temporary injunction on “electioneering” and “political advertising,” as well as dismiss the case on its merits.

The AG’s office and Huffman ISD have not responded to requests for comment before this article was published.

Because the AG’s office currently only has the authority to pursue civil cases, a group of concerned residents called on Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg to pursue a criminal case against Huffman ISD officials.

Local voters worked with the Liberty Justice Center to file affidavits and demand an investigation be started in March. Later, LJC confirmed that Ogg’s office was looking into the matter.

In February, LJC also helped voters file affidavits with Denton County District Attorney Paul Johnson to pursue a criminal case in Denton ISD.

Paxton’s office sued seven school districts for electioneering leading up to the March 5 Republican primary: Aledo, Castleberry, Denton, Denison, Frisco, Huffman, and Hutto.

Luca Cacciatore

Luca H. Cacciatore is a journalist for Texas Scorecard. He is an American Moment inaugural fellow and former welder.