Is Texas Ready for a Democrat Attorney General?


SAN ANGELO, TX — Justin Nelson is the Democrat running against Republican Ken Paxton for Texas Attorney General. Election Day is Nov. 6.

Nelson is passionate about transparency in government. Texas Public Information Act requests, or TPIAs, are how the news media gets information out of every level of government, except federal, in Texas. Oftentimes, when requesting information for a state government body, the government body will request an opinion from the Texas Attorney General about whether or not the request has validity.

“I believe strongly that the best way for government to operate is with complete and total transparency,” Nelson said in an exclusive interview with LIVE! “I will be fearless in my job, and you know I’ll be fearless because I am running as a Democrat statewide in Texas,” he said, referring to the odds of a Democrat prevailing in red state Texas. More on that later.

Nelson, a partner at Houston-based law firm Susman Godfrey LLP, also teaches Constitutional Law at the University of Texas School of Law.

“I’ve represented media companies on First Amendment issues. I get the importance of the First Amendment,” he said. He represented a news reporter who was caught up in the Valerie Plame investigation in the 2000s. That was when a special prosecutor was hired to investigate who leaked to the press the fact that Plame was a CIA agent in Washington, D.C. Then-Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff Scooter Libby was pardoned by President Donald Trump this year over his conviction for lying to a grand jury during the Plame affair last decade.

Experience in D.C. didn’t just involve working for clients. Nelson, a Houstonian who graduated from Yale University and earned his law degree from at Columbia School of Law, clerked for Justice Sandra Day O’Conner on the U.S. Supreme Court. Before that, he clerked for Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

“My vision for the office is to have our people work tirelessly for the people of Texas. We will hire the best lawyers in the state, regardless of [political] party. We’re going to have the capacity and the capability to work with county officials and county DAs and sheriffs, to have our people come in and do the job in a non-partisan way, providing the right resources to do the job correctly. That’s what the people of Texas want,” Nelson said.

The Republican-Democrat divide is oftentimes the greatest in fights over culture—the culture wars. These are issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and gender identity. Nelson said he’s running as an outsider who will not favor one side or the other.

“I believe strongly that for the office of Texas Attorney General you shouldn’t know if that person is a Democrat or a Republican. You have to run as a Democrat or Republican to get into office, but I want to take the politics out of the role and position. That is my fundamental, guiding mission,” he said.

Nelson also qualified his statement by promising a more centrist approach.

“There will be times when you see me not as an Empower Texans Republican, but more often there will be times when you may wonder, my gosh, what side [left or right] is he on?” he said. Nelson said if people have to guess what party he is in, he would take comfort knowing he is doing his job as attorney general correctly.

Empower Texans is the conservative think tank associated with conservative Republicanism, with whom Tom Green County Chairman Jeff Betty had a problem over their advocacy of certain issues and candidates.

“The job of the Texas Attorney General is to apply the law fairly and accurately and according to the Constitution. That is my mission. Period,” Nelson said.

If a Republican doesn’t trust what Nelson promises, he adds, “I learned the law from J. Harvie Wilkinson and Sandra Day O’Conner.” Both of his mentors are Republicans and appointed to their respective judgeships by President Ronald Reagan.

At the same time, Nelson said he is very much a Democrat.

“I’m a common sense Democrat. And I am a Democrat primarily because I believe in the capitalist system. I believe we need on-ramps to this economy that encourage everyone to succeed, and where people are not being suppressed, because that [an environment of suppression] is when you get things like socialism. That’s why fundamentally, in my heart, I am a Democrat,” he said.

Does Nelson stand a chance in red state Texas? He does as long as incumbent Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton grapples with indictments in what Nelson refers to as “deep red Collin County,” in the DFW Metroplex. Paxton’s legal trouble originates in a county Nelson said is the most Republican county in the state. Paxton is facing three indictments for securities fraud.

In 2015, Paxton was indicted on two counts of securities fraud, both first-degree felonies, and one count of failure to register with the State securities regulators, a third-degree felony. One of the complainants is Paxton’s former friend, Byron Cook. The two were roommates in Austin when both were serving in the Texas Legislature.

In press reports, Paxton, who is described as a staunch conservative Republican, said the charges are politically motivated by moderate Republicans, like his former friend Cook.

While Paxton’s case is stalled leading up to the Nov. 6 election, it has become Nelson’s biggest issue. Paxton is the first Texas Attorney General to be indicted since TAG Jim Mattox was indicted for bribery in 1983.

A Texas Tribune/University of Texas poll taken in June 2018 of 1,200 registered voters in Texas has Nelson trailing Paxton by one point, 32 to 31 percent. That is well within the +/-2.83 percent margin of error. But the poll also notes that 26 percent of Texans have no opinion.

Nelson has over $1 million in his campaign war chest, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

If Nelson wins, he will be the first Democrat elected to a statewide office since 1994.

Subscribe to the LIVE! Daily

The LIVE! Daily is the "newspaper to your email" for San Angelo. Each content-packed edition has weather, the popular Top of the Email opinion and rumor mill column, news around the state of Texas, news around west Texas, the latest news stories from San Angelo LIVE!, events, and the most recent obituaries. The bottom of the email contains the most recent rants and comments. The LIVE! daily is emailed 5 days per week. On Sundays, subscribers receive the West Texas Real Estate LIVE! email.


Most Recent Videos


Considering Democrats stand for socialism, open borders, unemployment, high crime rates and weak foreign policy, the answer is a resounding no, Texas is not ready for a Democrat attorney general. Or a Democrat dog catcher, for that matter. Today's Democrats are simply un-American.

I politely suggest that those here at least temporarily put aside their squabbles, specious political logic, and pettiness to honor a man who truly served and suffered for his country... John McCain.

God speed, John.

Post a comment to this article here:

X Close