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Meet the Baylor Alumni Involved in the Paxton Impeachment Trial

As the Texas Senate assembles to weigh the future of AG Paxton, five Baylor alums are playing crucial roles

An historic impeachment trial against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (’85, MBA’86) commenced this week with several Baylor alumni, including the attorney general himself, playing key roles in the outcome. The Texas Senate will consider charges brought by the Texas House of Representatives that Paxton abused the powers of his office and influence.

It’s a first in Texas history for an attorney general to be impeached and brought to trial. Though many Baylor alumni across the years have had storied (and sometimes fraught) political careers, Paxton is the first Baylor graduate to be impeached from public office. In addition to Paxton, there are four other Baylor alumni involved in the trial as elected state officials.

What’s Going On

AG Paxton is facing 16 articles of impeachment. He is accused of abusing his authority, office, and influence through bribery, dereliction of duty, and disregard of official duty. The articles are brought by the Texas House of Representatives. A House select committee investigated the attorney general and, ultimately, the Texas House voted 121-23 in May to suspend Paxton from performing his duties. This is not the only investigation he has faced while serving as the state’s top lawyer. Since almost the beginning of his term, he has faced criminal investigations, legal battles, and accusations concerning his conduct.

“Still,” as the Texas Tribune puts it, Texans “have twice reelected him, most recently in November.”

The Tribune further sums up the trial and its backstory this way:

Paxton has long positioned himself as one of the country’s strongest conservative attorneys general. In more than two terms as the state’s top lawyer, he has relentlessly sued the federal government over issues from immigration to health care and the environment. Paxton’s attorneys argue that the impeachment allegations are baseless or fall under the legitimate duties of the attorney general’s office.

The trial is expected to hinge on Paxton’s relationship with a real estate investor and political donor — and could prominently feature details of an alleged extramarital affair. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick will act as judge. Witnesses will testify under oath, senator-jurors will deliberate privately and votes will be conducted without public debate.

After lengthy deliberations in preparation for the trial, it was decided that Paxton’s wife, Angela Paxton (’85), a state senator for Senate District 8 and fellow Baylor graduate, would be allowed to be present in the senate chambers but would not be allowed to deliberate or vote in the outcome of her husband’s trial.

The margin of error is slim for Paxton. The Texas Senate is made up of 31 state senators. Excluding his wife, who can attend but cannot deliberate or vote, Paxton needs 20 Senators to vote against convicting him on each of the 16 counts being presented at trial. With 12 Democratic senators, who are all expected to vote for conviction on each count, Paxton needs at least 11 of the 18 voting Republicans to back him on all charges. There is a group of six Republicans considered hold-outs and two Republican swing votes.

The trial began on the morning of September 5. Many outlets are covering the trial live (including the Texas Tribune, Texas Monthly, the Texas Standard, and the New York Times) and it is expected to last possibly two or three weeks.

The Baylor Graduates Involved

State Senator Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills)

Hancock (’86) earned a BBA while at Baylor and served on Student Foundation.

He serves as the state senator for Senate District 9, which serves portions of Tarrant and Dallas counties. It includes the cities of Keller, Eagle Mountain, and parts of Forth Worth and Arlington. He was first elected to the state senate in 2012 and previously served in the Texas House of Representatives from 2007 to 2013. He currently chairs the Veteran Affairs Committee and is vice-chair of the Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee.

In addition to his public service, Hancock is a business owner, running his family’s distributions company.

Hancock is considered one of the six key Republican holdouts in the attorney general’s impeachment trial. He voted with the Democratic block against all 16 motions to dismiss the charges brought against Paxton.

State Senator Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola)

Hughes (JD ’95) graduated from Baylor Law.

He serves as the state senator for Senate District 1, which serves counties in north East Texas and includes the cities of Paris, Texarkana, Carthage, Henderson, Tyler, Kilgore, Longview, Marshall, and Karnack. He was first elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 2002, serving until 2017. He was elected to the state senate in 2016. He currently serves as chair of the Jurisprudence and State Affairs committees.

In addition to his public service, Hughes is an attorney.

Hughes is one of the two Republican state senators considered swing-votes in the trial. In the early morning, rapid-fire round of motions Tuesday, concerning the dismissal of the 16 charges, Hughes voted with the Democratic block against dismissal of some but with his Republican allies on other votes. Additionally, Hughes is not only a voting member of the jury in the impeachment trial, but also named in the articles of impeachment for improper backchannel coordination with Paxton to request a favorable legal opinion from the AG’s office to help an ally and donor of Paxton. Texas law says that in normal court proceedings, a material witness may not serve as a juror. Despite this, Hughes is slated to be called as a witness by the prosecution in the impeachment trial and will also vote in the outcome.

State Representative Jeff Leach (R-Plano)

Serving on the team of house impeachment managers, Leach (’05) majored in political science while at Baylor and served as student body president.

He serves as the state representative for District 67, which is within Collin County and includes parts of the cities of Plano, Allen, Richardson, and Dallas. He was first elected in 2012 and currently chairs the House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee.

In addition to his public service, Leach is an attorney focusing in the areas of complex commercial and civil litigation, construction law, and real estate.

Leach voted to impeach Paxton in May.

Attorney General Ken Paxton (R)

AG Paxton (’85, MBA ’86) majored in psychology and earned his MBA while at Baylor. He also served as student body president.

He is currently suspended from performing his duties as the Texas attorney general, a position he was first elected to in 2014, winning by almost 20%. He was overwhelmingly reelected in 2018. During the 2022 primaries he defeated fellow Baylor alumni Louie Gohmert (JD ’77). He won the 2022 general election by over 10% against his Democratic challenger. Previously, he served as a Texas Representative from 2003 through 2013 and then as a Texas State Senator from 2013 to 2015.

Paxton’s record is known far beyond the state for partnering closely with former President Donald J. Trump — during Trump’s time as both a candidate and while in office — and also for suing the Obama and Biden administrations more than any other state attorney general. His profile has also been elevated by repeated criminal accusations of illegal and unethical behavior, a state indictment for securities fraud, and a federal investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission. (Paxton was indicted on the state securities fraud case, which is still active, but the SEC case was dismissed.)

Through his attorney, AG Paxton pleaded not guilty to all charges on the trial’s opening day. He left the senate chambers after the lunch break on the trial’s first day and has not returned. He is not required to be present.

State Senator Angela Allen Paxton (R-McKinney)

The wife of AG Paxton, State Senator Paxton (’85) majored in mathematics and computer science while at Baylor. The couple met while they were students at Baylor and married in 1986.

She serves as the state senator for Senate District 8, which contains parts of Collin and Dallas counties and includes the cities of McKinney, Plano, Prosper, Commerce, and Greenville. She was first elected to the state senate in 2018. Se currently serves as vice chair of the State Affairs Committee.

Prior to her career in public service, State Senator Paxton was an educator, serving in public, home, and private schools.

While she is allowed to attend the proceedings in the state senate chambers, State Senator Paxton will not be allowed to deliberate or vote in the outcome of her husband’s trial.

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Disclaimer: State Representative Jeff Leach previously served on the board of directors of Baylor Alumni Association, the predecessor to Baylor Line Foundation.

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