AUSTIN – To Rep. Tony Tinderholt of Arlington, one of the two Tarrant County House members who opposed the impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton, the historic action on the House floor over the weekend was a shameful example “of political targeting” against one of the most effective state attorneys general in the country.

How Tarrant voted

Tarrant County’s 11 House members delegation voted 9-2 in favor of impeachment,

Voting against impeachment were Rep. Tony Tinderholt of Arlington and Nate Schatzline of Fort Worth.

The five Republicans supporting Paxton’s impeachment were Reps. Giovanni Capriglione of Southlake, David Cook of Mansfield, and Charlie Geren, Craig Goldman and Stephanie Klick, all of Fort Worth. 

All four Democrats voted for impeachment: Reps. Salman Bhojani of Euless, Chris Turner of Grand Prairie, and Nicole Collier and Ramon Romero Jr., both of Fort Worth.

A strikingly different reaction came from Rep. Chris Turner of Grand Prairie. The  former House Democratic leader said the outcome validates his years-long call for an investigation into Paxton’s troubling activities and sends a fundamental message:  “No one is above the law.”

The Republican-dominated 11-member Tarrant County delegation voted 9-2 in favor of impeachment, mirroring the overwhelming 121-23 decision in the full 149-member House. Five Republicans joined all four Democrats to support the motion. Voting against impeachment were Tinderholt of Arlington and Nate Schatzline of Fort Worth.

Rep. Charlie Geren of Fort Worth played a major role in the Legislature’s first impeachment case in a half-century by serving on the five-member investigating committee, which produced the 20 impeachment articles. He also made headlines with his disclosure on the House floor that Paxton called several members to threaten political reprisals in the next election.

Members acknowledged that the responsibility of deciding the potential future of a major state official who serves as Texas’ top law enforcement officer weighed heavily. The charges only became public last week following a secret three-month-long investigation by the House General Investigating Committee.

“It doesn’t feel good,” said Rep. Craig Goldman of Fort Worth when asked after the vote on Saturday to describe his reaction. “No one was excited about coming to the Capitol this morning.”

Goldman, who heads the House Republican Caucus, likened impeachment to an indictment by a grand jury.

The vote was not a decision on guilt or innocence, said Goldman and other members, but a fulfillment of the House’s fundamental obligation to determine that there is enough evidence to let the Senate decide whether Paxton should be found guilty and removed from office.


“Once I heard the evidence, I think those who voted in favor of it were firm with their votes,” Goldman said.  

Rep. David Cook,  a Mansfield Republican, sounded a similar note in explaining his decision to impeach Paxton for “numerous” accusations, including the “wrongful termination of whistleblowers who made good-faith reports” of alleged criminal misconduct.

“Impeachment is not meant to punish the accused, but rather protect the people of Texas from abuse of power,” he said in a statement.  “The duty now shifts to my colleagues in the Senate, where General Paxton is entitled to a presumption of innocence, due process and a full evidentiary impeachment trial.”

Tinderholt and Schatzline both cited flaws in the committee investigation that they said compelled them to cast votes against impeachment.

”I’m really disappointed about the outcome,” Tinderholt said in his office on Saturday after the vote. “I think today was a lot less about whether it was factual or not. I think really what it came down to is do we think the process was ethical, was it an unquestionable process, and I would say no.”

After the impeachment investigation became public, Tinderholt, who knows Paxton, said he called the attorney general to offer support. “Just a quick hello. How are you doing? Everything going OK?” he said in describing the tone of the conversation.

“I think he’s doing a great job,” said Tinderholt, describing Paxton as “probably the most efficient attorney general in the country right now, and that leads to why Democrats would want him to be gone.”

Schatzline, echoing other critics of the process, complained that House members were not given direct evidence to personal testimony and other fundamental details.

Rep. Stephanie Klick, a Fort Worth Republican, acknowledged that many Republican House members know the attorney general as well as his wife, Angela Paxton, a member of the Senate, and “had been supportive of him in the past.” But, she added, in explaining hers and other Republican votes for impeachment, “our role as legislators was to protect the public.”  

Rep. Ramon Romero Jr., a Fort Worth Democrat who voted for impeachment, said the “straw that broke the camel’s back” was Paxton’s request to the Legislature for $3.3 million in taxpayer funds to pay for a settlement he negotiated with former aides who went public with allegations of wrongdoing against him. 

“For all the folks that say that due process didn’t really take place, well it’s going to happen in the Senate,” he said.  “And the attorney general will have the opportunity to defend himself over in the Senate with his lawyer. I hope the Senate will do the right thing.”

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David Montgomery is a longtime journalist who has served as an Austin Bureau chief for the Dallas Times Herald, Austin and Washington bureau chief for the Fort Worth Star Telegram, and Moscow bureau...