Of the four state senators who represent parts of Bexar County, just one, Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels), voted to acquit Attorney General Ken Paxton on all 16 articles of impeachment.
Campbell is a conservative and an ally of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, serving alongside three Democrats who make up Bexar County’s delegation in the state Senate.
In a statement Saturday, Campbell said she believed “prosecutors failed to prove any article beyond reasonable doubt,” and “the articles [of impeachment] did not rise to the level of removal from office.”
Paxton faced allegations of corruption and bribery, some of which involved helping a political contributor who facilitated the attorney general’s alleged affair with a woman who worked for Campbell as her district director.
Like many GOP Senate colleagues, Campbell focused the majority of her comments on weaknesses in the prosecution, as Paxton’s legal troubles continue to unfold beyond the impeachment proceedings.
He will now return to work as attorney general, but still faces securities fraud charges, and is under federal investigation for some of the same corruption and bribery allegations the legislature explored.
“The prosecution left the door open to speculation and assumptions. There are questions that remain unanswered and only time will tell,” Campbell said Saturday. “This was a historical event and I’m glad the right of innocent until proven guilty still prevailed.”
Prosecutors needed 21 of the state’s 31 senators to approve at least one article of impeachment for Paxton to be removed from office Saturday. The Senate is made up of 19 Republicans and 12 Democrats. Paxton’s wife, Republican state Sen. Angela Paxton, was not allowed to vote.
Two Republican senators split with their party to support some articles of impeachment, but none of the articles received 21 votes. Senators voted to dismiss four other articles outright, with all but one Democrat opposing the idea.
Headed into the proceedings Paxton’s lawyers sought unsuccessfully to disqualify two Bexar County Democrats, Roland Gutierrez and José Menéndez, from participating due to “bias or prejudice against the accused.”
On Saturday, Gutierrez was one of just two senators who voted to convict Paxton on all charges.
“Hard-right Republicans decided today that it’s okay to take bribes and lie to the public, as long as you are the Republican Attorney General of Texas,” said Gutierrez, who is running for the Democratic nomination to challenge U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. “People elected to office are sworn to an oath to protect all the citizens under their charge, not their ultra wealthy, well-connected friends.”
Menéndez voted to convict on most articles, but sided with Republicans to acquit on article four, as did a fourth state senator representing part of Bexar County, Democrat Judith Zaffirini. Zaffirini also voted to acquit on article eight. Both articles involved a “disregard of official duty.”
Menéndez said after the trial that he was “disappointed” with the outcome, and blamed “external forces” that “applied pressure to prevent jurors from voting impartially.”
Menéndez didn’t specify who or what external forces, but he and Gutierrez have sought to draw attention to a pro-Paxton outside group that gave $3 million to the campaign of Patrick, who was tasked with overseeing the impeachment process in the Senate.
“After an intense review of the evidence, an acquittal of every article of impeachment condones the morally bankrupt actions of Warren Kenneth Paxton, Jr.,” Menéndez said in a statement. “Moreover, it sends a message to future whistleblowers that their bravery may not produce justice. The final chapter of this decision is not written, and it is my belief that this outcome will be known as a profound error.”
Zaffirini’s office did not provide a comment on the impeachment proceedings.