In Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial this summer, 31 state senators will decide whether to permanently remove him as Texas attorney general. One is his wife.
Last September, a process server arrived at the home of Ken Paxton, the Texas attorney general, as part of a lawsuit filed by groups trying to help women get abortions out of state. Mr. Paxton’s wife, State Senator Angela Paxton, greeted him at the door and told him her husband was on the phone. Later, Ms. Paxton was seen out in the driveway, firing up a pickup truck and swinging open a rear passenger door.
At that point, the process server later recounted, Mr. Paxton ran from the garage, climbed into the truck, and the couple disappeared down the street, leaving him to deposit the subpoena on the ground.
Now, Ms. Paxton is in a position to help her husband with a much more existential legal entanglement: She is one of 31 state senators who are designated to act as jurors in Mr. Paxton’s impeachment trial this summer, deciding whether to convict him on charges that he abused his office to benefit himself and a donor and permanently remove him from office.
The question of how Ms. Paxton, a second-term Republican senator from north of Dallas, would handle that responsibility — whether she would choose or be required to recuse herself from the decision — has been hanging over the State Capitol since last week, when Mr. Paxton was impeached by a wide margin of Republicans and Democrats in the Texas House.
She is not only married to Mr. Paxton; she has also been directly affected by the conduct that her husband is accused of. Among the articles of impeachment that Mr. Paxton faces are allegations that he had an extramarital affair with a woman and used his office to help a donor who repaid him in part by giving the woman a job.
The same donor, an Austin real estate investor, paid to renovate one of the Paxtons’ houses, House investigators said, and Ms. Paxton, according to their findings, had requested an expensive upgrade.
Ms. Paxton, 60, has not publicly commented on the case, and her staff did not respond to a request for an interview. Mr. Paxton, also 60, has denied any wrongdoing.
Through it all — a criminal indictment in 2015, the alleged affair, a wrongful termination lawsuit by his most senior aides in 2020, a barrage of legal fights and personal attacks and now impeachment — Ms. Paxton has stuck with her husband.
“I saw a quote the other day,” she said in a 2019 interview, “and it said, the secret to a successful marriage is two sinners who are good at forgiving.”
Ms. Paxton was onstage when Mr. Paxton spoke at a rally in support of President Donald J. Trump in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021.Credit…Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press
A date for the impeachment trial has not yet been set, though the State Senate has said that it would take place at some point before Aug. 28. As a result of the House impeachment vote on Saturday, Mr. Paxton, a Republican in his third term, was temporarily removed as the attorney general in Texas, a post he had used to aggressively push for conservative policies in state and federal court.
The Senate sets the rules of the trial and has given itself until June 20 to decide on them. The lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, has said that “all 31 senators” would have a vote.
On Wednesday, Gov. Greg Abbott, who has not commented on the impeachment, appointed John Scott, the former secretary of state, to serve as interim attorney general pending the resolution of the Senate trial.
In addition to Ms. Paxton, another senator, Bryan Hughes, has been close with Mr. Paxton and was referred to indirectly in one of the articles of impeachment. Mr. Paxton was said to have directed his office to write a legal opinion to help Nate Paul, the real estate investor, and then concealed doing so by asking Mr. Hughes to make the request as a kind of “straw requester.”
A spokesman for Mr. Hughes did not comment on the charge.
No one in the State Senate is closer to Mr. Paxton than his wife, a former math teacher and guidance counselor whose first run for office came in 2018, when she ran for the Senate seat once occupied by her husband.
“She’s a good person to work with, but she is 110 percent in the far right,” said Kel Seliger, a former Republican state senator who overlapped with Ms. Paxton and bristled at Mr. Patrick’s ultraconservative leadership. “She will not make any waves in Republican circles.”
Ms. Paxton with her husband at her election watch party in Allen, Texas, in 2018, when she was running for State Senate.Credit…Stewart F. House/The Dallas Morning News, via Associated Press
For decades, since the couple met at Baylor University and married in 1986, the Paxtons have been by each other’s side. The two are familiar fixtures in the conservative Christian circles of suburban Dallas.
“People love the Paxtons,” said Richard Ellis, pastor of Reunion Church, who knows the couple personally. “If you go to any kind of political event or fund-raiser, and you see them and how people interact with them, you can’t help but see that they care about people and people care about them.”
But, he added, the accusations against Mr. Paxton have more recently caused some to steer clear, a fact that he lamented. “Too many times, the Christian community, when we’re supposed to be running to the fire, we run from the fire,” he said. “When we’re supposed to be helping people when they’re in trouble, we distance ourselves.”
A devout Christian and a capable singer, Ms. Paxton has described recording an album of church songs and once sang the national anthem before a Texas Rangers baseball game.
That episode, like so many others, came about at the intersection of her personal life and her husband’s political ambitions: He had arranged for her to showcase her singing the anthem at the Dallas kickoff of George W. Bush’s first campaign for governor in the 1990s. Mr. Bush at the time was an owner of the Rangers, and Mr. Paxton wanted to impress him, recalled Ms. Paxton in the 2019 interview. “Ken was always really encouraging of me singing,” she said.
Ms. Paxton would later gain local political fame by singing at Mr. Paxton’s campaign events, especially a song with the catchy, partisan refrain: “I’m a pistol-packing mama, and my husband sues Obama.”
On Wednesday, Gov. Greg Abbott named John Scott, the former secretary of state, to serve as interim attorney general, pending the resolution of the State Senate trial.Credit…Eric Gay/Associated Press
The song would later serve as a kind of political biography for Ms. Paxton, who also sings in it of being adopted as an infant. She would later reference her adoption as having shaped her strong views in opposition to abortion.
“Every life really does matter,” she said, telling her story at a local Republican club event in 2016, according to a report in a local paper. “When you look at a newborn baby, who knows what God has in store for that child?”
Abraham George, the chair of the Republican Party in Collin County, which is part of Ms. Paxton’s district, said he had known the couple for many years and never thought she would get into politics herself, until she did.
“She was very supportive of Ken,” he said. “I never expected her to run. I don’t think she did either.” He has since held fund-raisers for her. “She’s easy to work with,” he said.
Ms. Paxton’s Senate colleagues appeared to agree, saying she was usually pleasant to both Republicans and Democrats. None reached for comment would speak on the record about her.
The September episode with the process server in their driveway was perhaps the most dramatic example of Ms. Paxton’s acting to assist her embattled husband, who by that point was facing not only political opposition on the abortion issue, but also criminal indictment for securities fraud and a federal investigation into his firing of top aides who had accused him of corruption. But it was far from the only time she had done so.
In 2019, months after taking office, Ms. Paxton introduced one of her first pieces of legislation: a bill to change the law regarding investment advice that her husband had been accused of violating. The proposal went nowhere.
“No one should think of Angela Paxton as the scorned wife here,” said Matt Angle, the director of the Lone Star Project, a Democratic political organization. “She’s a full partner.”
On Jan. 6, 2021, Ms. Paxton stood on stage next to her husband during a rally with President Donald J. Trump near the U.S. Capitol as he listed his efforts to challenge the results of the 2020 election in several states, hoping to overturn them.
By that point, many of the accusations against Mr. Paxton, including the affair, were already largely known. “Thank God for a Legislature in Texas, like my senator, Angela Paxton, my wife, who put in place laws that protect against fraud,” Mr. Paxton told the crowd in Washington that day, as she nodded beside him. As they walked from the stage, she gave him a quick kiss.
And she was with him smiling at his swearing-in for a third term this year.
“They’re not hating on each other,” said Pastor Ellis, who said he offered an official prayer during the swearing-in ceremony. “If she were trying to make a statement, that would be a pretty easy way to make one,” by not showing up, he said. “I have yet to meet a Christian couple that does not have challenges, and the fact that they’re still together should tell everybody something.”
Susan C. Beachy contributed research.