Ken Paxton who? Life in Collin County goes on despite impeachment trial

Most of Collin County — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s political stronghold — spent his impeachment trial living life as usual.

By Caroline Love, KERA NewsSeptember 19, 2023 9:50 am, ,

From KERA News:

Texas politicians, Ken Paxton’s most ardent supporters, news junkies and journalists all have spent much of the past two weeks focused on his impeachment trial. But even in Collin County — Paxton’s political power base — life went on as usual for many.

The Texas House filed 20 articles of impeachment against Paxton in late May, charging him with bribery and abuse of office. While Paxton’s defense refuted allegations of bribery on Thursday, Shelby Forester grabbed lunch with her coworker, Mariana Vincenti, in downtown Plano.

Forester said she hasn’t been following the impeachment and doesn’t pay attention to politics.

“I personally don’t like to watch people fight and argue and bicker about things,” she said.

Vincenti said she also doesn’t keep up with politics. Neither does Christy Marie. She grabbed groceries at H Mart, an Asian grocery store chain, during the trial.

“I don’t really watch TV or listen to radio,” said Marie, who lives in Plano.

Other Collin County residents had similar things to say. David Mely, who has lived in Allen for 19 years, said he heard about Paxton being impeached. But Mely said he doesn’t follow politics unless it’s an election year.

“That’s when I pay attention,” he said. “But not right now.”

Growing Diversity

Maria Garcia said the Paxton impeachment was a sham. Garcia, who’s the president of the Hispanic Republican Club of North Texas, paid close attention to the trial.

“I’m watching it every day,” she said.

Garcia said the trial goes against the will of the people who re-elected Paxton last year. He won his home county with just over half of the vote, about 188,000 votes.

Just under 700,000 of Collin County’s 1.1 million residents were registered to vote in 2022. But not all of the county’s registered voters participated in the election that year — about half of them did.

The population growth has brought diversity. Collin County is about 20% Asian and 16% Hispanic. Caleb Milne, the former vice chair of the county’s Democratic Party, said the county’s growing diversity will benefit Democrats.

“There’s no way to stop this progression,” Milne said. “It’s not only a demographic problem, but a shifting attitudes problem.”

No Democrats won Collin County in 2020 — but there were three in 2022. That included State Representative Mihaela Plesa.

Her race was close — she won by less than a thousand votes. But Democratic momentum is growing as the county diversifies. Plesa told Collin County residents at a rally after the Allen shooting need to build on that.

“We can continue putting more people at the table,” she said.

Divisive Shifts

Democrats have won seats in Collin County at the local level on city councils and school boards. Katherine Chan Goodwin was elected to Plano ISD’s board of trustees in May.

School board and city council races are supposed to be nonpartisan — but Chan Goodwin said in a previous interview with KERA that isn’t the case anymore.

“It’s the last place that we should be arguing about politics,” she said. “We should be focusing on those kids and what we can do for them.”

Candidates for the Collin College board had similar things to say. Cathie Alexander, who holds Place 3 on the Collin College board, and Stacey Donald, who lost her seat to Alexander, said they didn’t want to focus on partisan issues while running for the board during a June runoff election.

“Let’s move off of that line of thinking and move on to something that has to do with student success,” Alexander said.

“A lot of voters like us to be labeled R and D because it makes it easier for them, but it makes it really hard to just concentrate on the issues,” Donald said.

But politically divisive issues were front and center during the Collin College board race. The Collin County Republican Party sent an email encouraging people to vote for Alexander and Jay Saad, who ran against Scott Coleman for Place 2, to keep Collin College from being overrun by the ‘woke left’ who are more concerned about gender neutral bathrooms than maintaining the college.

Alexander said she didn’t know the Party planned on sending that email.

Conflicting Loyalties

The Collin County GOP has also been vocal in its support of Paxton. Several supporters rallied in his honor when the house impeached Paxton. The party’s chair, Abraham George, called the impeachment a circus that lacked due process in a social media statement.

“Real corruption is when you won’t allow fair and due process,” the statement said.

Paxton and other key players in the Collin County Republican Party attended a Labor Day picnic with his wife, Texas State Senator Angela Paxton days before his impeachment trial began. Senator Paxton praised her husband’s resilience when she spoke at the picnic.

“I don’t know that there’s really anyone, that I know, that has more experience with having a target on their back,” Angela Paxton said, introducing her husband to the speaker’s platform. “But more importantly, experience in successfully overcoming having a target on their back.”

Most of the Collin County GOP has also been vocal in its support of Paxton. There was a rally in his honor after the House voted to impeach him. And several key players in the party went to a Labor Day picnic with Paxton and his wife, Senator Angela Paxton.

But the Collin County GOP isn’t united in its support of Paxton — all of the House Republicans from the county voted to impeach Paxton.

Garica said voters will remember that when they visit the polls in 2024, especially grassroots political activists.

But for North Texans like Forester who don’t focus on politics, the memory may fade.

“I’m thankful that there’s people who do care about those things,” she said. “But personally, I just don’t want to engage in an argument all the time.”

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