Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton Draws First Democratic Challenger For 2018

Nelson campaign/Laura Buckman: Paxton
Houston lawyer Justin Nelson (left) and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is getting his first Democratic opponent for re-election.

Attorney Justin Nelson is entering the race to be the state's top lawyer with just over a month until the candidate filing deadline for the 2018 primaries. 

"Justice is for all. Nobody is above the law," Nelson said in a news release. "Texans can do better than our indicted Attorney General who is charged with criminal fraud."

Paxton, who is seeking a second term, has been under indictment for most of his current term, fighting securities fraud charges stemming from allegations before  his time as attorney general. Those legal troubles have made him a top target for Democrats in 2018, despite the void of challengers until now. 

Nelson, 42, is a partner specializing in major civil litigation at the Houston law firm Susman Godfrey LLP who has been named a Texas Super Lawyer by Thomson Reuters. A graduate of Yale University and Columbia Law School, he clerked for ex-U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and Harvey Wilkinson, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.

Nelson lives in Austin, where he is an adjunct professor at the University of Texas School of Law.

Nelson is not entirely new to politics. He is the founder and former president of One Nation One Vote, a group that is pushing to elect the president by popular vote. The issue has been a hot topic in the wake of the 2016 election, when Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College but lost to her in the popular vote.

Nelson is joining the race as Democrats scramble to fill out their statewide ticket with serious contenders, most notably for the gubernatorial contest. The candidate filing period begins Saturday and concludes a month later.

Nelson may not be the only Democrat vying to challenge Paxton in March. At least a couple others are considering running for the office, including Lubbock lawyer John Gibson and Vincent Harding, the outgoing chairman of the Travis County Democratic Party. 

Paxton's legal saga is likely to continue well into the 2018 race. He is currently waiting for a new trial date in the state's long-running criminal case against him, which goes back over two years. The trial has been delayed three times, and his lawyers have suggested rescheduling it for March.

Paxton has pleaded not guilty to all the allegations. He has already been cleared in a similar civil case at the federal level.


From The Texas Tribune