A politically motivated indictment brought against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has been widely criticized across the country as continuing evidence of how Texas’ grand jury system can be so easily manipulated. While legal observers agree the baseless indictments will never result in a conviction, they nonetheless are cropping up in a state senate campaign against Paxton’s wife.
Angela Paxton is running in the open-seat primary to replace State Sen. Van Taylor (R-Plano). She faces Dallas County businessman Phillip Huffines in the GOP primary. Huffines’ twin brother, Don, holds the abutting senatorial seat.
Neither Ken Paxton nor Don Huffines drew challengers in their respective GOP primaries, but both face Democrats in November.
Phillip Huffines entered the open Senate District 8 primary in the early spring; Paxton entered in August.
This week, Texas Scorecard was provided a recording of an automated survey – the tone of which is ostensibly supporting Phillip Huffines. The recording was provided by a person unaffiliated with either campaign.
The unnamed voice on the recording offers this attack: “Attorney General Ken Paxton is using his campaign account to guarantee a loan of $2 million to his wife, Angela Paxton’s campaign. Meanwhile, Angela Paxton is encouraging donors to continue contributing to her husband’s legal defense fund, tied to his indictment for corruption.”
While it is true Ken Paxton is under indictment, it is based – without merit – on private business dealings, not with public office. The Paxtons are raising money for his legal defense precisely because it is private and unrelated to any official actions. If the indictment had been for “corruption” or other matters related to his office, he would have been allowed to use campaign funds for his legal defense.
Ken Paxton and his family have waged a heroic fight against the unjust indictments. It might have been in Paxton’s financial interest to have taken a plea deal to leave office and preserve his freedom and livelihood. At great personal cost, Paxton has instead stood and fought. The Paxtons should be applauded for exposing widespread corruption in a judicial system that has left itself open to abuse for political gain.
Anthony Holm, a spokesman for Angela Paxton’s campaign, described the attack as “devious.”
“Mr. Huffines has admitted in the past that his campaign made similar push-poll attacks on Angela Paxton. Equally as troubling are the falsehoods they’re spreading through their door-knocking operations, but both attacks are quite devious.”
Push-polls are different from surveys and regular polling. In regular polling, questions and answers are designed in a neutral fashion to provide the pollster a clear vision of the public view. A push-poll, in contrast, uses weighted questions in a way to move respondents towards a particular perspective.
But after decrying falsehoods from the Huffines campaign, Holms accused them of “mischaracterizing the truth in an effort to distract voters from Phillip Huffines’ donations to liberal democrats and his other falsehoods, such as his faux-support of the Texas Republican Party platform.”
Huffines was the chairman of the Dallas County Republican Party and has a long history of supporting conservative candidates.
When asked about the matter, the Huffines campaign would not confirm if they were responsible for the survey question, nor did they take the opportunity to distance themselves from the false narrative it presents.
Huffines’ general consultant Matt Langston did say the campaign has been conducting regular surveys of the district.
“Push polling is for con artists, and our campaign would never engage in it. Anyone who says otherwise is being deliberately dishonest. We are running against Angela Paxton, and not Ken Paxton. Our campaign is not chasing every ghost when it comes to negatives we hear being asked about Phillip, and we hope everyone involved can stick to the facts.”
Langston is right that campaigns should stick to the facts, but that should include the Huffines’ campaign and their supporters.
Holm is right that campaigns shouldn’t use falsehoods to tear down their opponents, but that should include the Paxton campaign and their supporters as well. The idea that Phillip Huffines doesn’t support the Republican Party platform is worthy of ridicule.
The problem for conservatives isn’t that the Huffines campaign is running surveys – or even “push-polls” – the concern is that they appear to be testing, even promulgating, a fraudulent message against Angela Paxton and her husband.
It is unacceptable for conservatives to use dishonest, left-wing talking points against their opponents.

Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael Quinn Sullivan is the publisher of Texas Scorecard. He is a native Texan, a graduate of Texas A&M, and an Eagle Scout. Previously, he has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine contributor, Capitol Hill staffer, and think tank vice president. Michael and his wife have three adult children, a son-in-law, and a dog. Michael is the author of three books, including "Reflections on Life and Liberty."


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