Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Ken Paxton dominates Texas Association of Businesses AG forum

Two hours ago, we crashed the Texas Association of Businesses Attorney General Forum.  It was the first time we've seen all three candidates in the same setting.  Today's discussion re-enforces the decision we reached months ago.

Dan Branch opened by being Dan Branch.  He bragged about decade old votes in the legislature.  We suspect his more recent advocacy of tax increases and water carrying for Bill Powers wouldn't have gone over as well.  Calling himself a "can-do Conservative who gets results," Branch took multiple cheap shots at Jonathan Stickland.  But enough about Dan Branch.

Ken Paxton outlined his strategic vision for the Attorney General's office.  Paxton described how, in the age of Obama, the focus of the Attorney General's office has shifted from state level issues to defending Texas' against Federal assault.  Paxton identified Texas' economic success as an embarrassment to the Obama administration.  They need to shut Texas' economy down because they can't handle the competition.  Paxton was the only candidate to clearly define the problem.

Paxton praised current Attorney General Greg Abbott for recognizing early how the role of the office needed to change.  One point we wish Paxton had made is that General Abbott also sued the federal government three times under George W. Bush.  If there's one lesson we learned from the TARP debacle, it's that Federal overreach comes from both parties.

Barry Smitherman made a cryptic comment about looking at a candidate's personal life: "Whether they've ever sued or been sued."  We have no idea to what Smitherman was referring, but we suspect there's a dirty trick coming.  In fairness, Smitherman also raised good points about lowering operating costs in the AG's office that we hope whoever wins this race will heed.

Each candidate deserves praise for his response on school finance.  Suing the state of Texas over school finance is a cottage industry in Austin.  All three candidates demonstrated a solid understanding of the asinine dual-mandate that guides education funding in Texas.

The Texas Attorney General occupies a unique position.  In addition to being Texas' chief law enforcement officer he leads the growing cadre of state attorneys general pushing back against Federal overreach.  Today, Ken Paxton re-enforced what we already knew about this race.

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