As soon as the trial was over, Tarrant County Sen. Kelly Hancock quickly changed clothes in his State Capitol office and was driving home from Austin when a text popped up on his cellphone.
It was from his 31-year-old daughter, Chloe, the oldest of his three grown children.
“Dad, we’re proud of you,” read the message. “You have no idea how many times your grandchildren are going to hear this story.”
Hancock recalled that anecdote in an interview with the Fort Worth Report on Thursday. Seated in his Senate District 9 office in downtown Fort Worth, he relived his controversial role in the historic Senate impeachment trial of Attorney General Ken Paxton, which ended Sept. 16 with Paxton’s acquittal.
Only two Republicans voted in favor of convicting Paxton and forcing him from office — Hancock, who lives in North Richland Hills, and Sen. Robert Nichols of Jacksonville.
The ensuing political fallout has deepened turmoil among Republicans as Paxton-supporting conservatives vow to retaliate against those who endorsed the House-passed impeachment articles and pushed for conviction.
Hancock and Nichols quickly came under attack from conservatives for bucking the rest of the Republican-led Senate in the historic showdown vote. But, in a 30-minute interview in his district office on the fifth floor of the Fort Worth Club, Hancock said that feedback across his district — and beyond — has been overwhelmingly positive.
And the text from his daughter, he said, was the sweetest of all.
“That’s all I needed,” he said. “You know, all the other texts were great. But if that’s the only text I got, it would have confirmed that I did what I needed to do.”
Hancock, a businessman who has been a member of the Legislature for 17 years, voted to convict on 13 of 16 articles that alleged a pattern of corruption and abuse of office stemming from the attorney general’s relationship with Austin real estate investor Nate Paul. And of the three in which he voted to acquit, Hancock said, he made his decision because he felt like the threshold of proving the evidence “beyond a reasonable doubt” was not achieved by prosecutors.
“Acquittal is not innocent,” he said.
The North Texas senator said he and other senators were under intense pressure, mostly from Paxton supporters, as the impeachment case transitioned from the House vote on articles of impeachment in May toward the Senate trial to determine if the state’s top law enforcement officer should be removed from office.
“It’s obviously a big event and one I took seriously,” he said.
Efforts to influence the Senate vote were so blatant, he said, that “outside of impeachment, they would call it jury tampering.”
“There was a tremendous effort and a lot of money,” he said, describing the barrage of commercials, emails, texts and robocalls he characterized as “trying to influence my vote.”
“Someone clearly sent out my personal cell phone number,” he said, adding that it “blew up to the point that it filled up my phone with unread messages.”
Paxton supporters also tried to pressure him “to vote a certain way,” he said. “I was told, ‘I don’t want the speaker to win’ (House Speaker Dade Phelan helped initiate the impeachment articles),” which … should not come into my calculations.”
“I just stayed away from it,” he said. “My obligation was to weigh the evidence and testimony and … seek out the truth. I could not let outside distractions influence me in order to represent my constituents properly.”
After closing arguments, Hancock followed the instructions from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the trial judge, to avoid all but the most innocent outside contact and stayed by himself in his Austin apartment to prepare for final deliberations the next day.
He and other senators gathered on the Senate floor in closed session to review the evidence and more than 400 documents before taking their votes in public on Sept. 16 after they felt their deliberations were over.
The 13 articles supported by Hancock and Nichols included allegations of disregard of official duty, misapplication of public resources, false statements, conspiracy and attempted conspiracy, misappropriation of public resources, dereliction of duty and unfitness for office.
Among those getting his and Nichols’ vote for acquittal was a charge of constitutional bribery stemming from allegations that Paxton benefitted from Paul’s decision to employ a woman with whom the attorney general was allegedly having an extramarital affair.
Hancock had no doubt that there was an affair and that the woman was on Paul’s payroll but, he said, “I don’t think the intent of that hiring was proven.”
“Was there a lot of evidence there?” he said. “Yes. Was there enough for me to vote for it? No.”
Although Hancock didn’t think there was enough to prove the charge of constitutional bribery involving Paul’s hiring of Paxton’s alleged mistress, he supported another constitutional bribery charge involving Paul’s extensive renovations to Paxton’s Austin home.
“I voted my conscience and convictions,” he said, adding that he was “very comfortable” with his decision and “very much at peace during that day.”
Since then, Hancock says he has settled into relative contentment in his home district, back with family and constituents. He was wearing a dark blue suit and white shirt without a necktie as he fielded questions in his district headquarters.
“Back to the office, back to working out a bit, spending time with family … seeing the new grandson,” he said. “A lot of family time.”
Although Paxton-supportingconservatives have assailed him for his vote, Hancock says the response he’s been getting is “really strong, really good.”
“I didn’t know what to expect, but my phone was blowing up with praise,” he said, adding that he’s received “a lot of support from within the district.”
When he went to the gym for a workout recently, he said, “immediately someone comes up and thanks me for my vote. And then on my way out, somebody thanks me for my vote.”
Hancock doesn’t face reelection until 2026. Asked about his plans, he cites the life lesson he’s learned from a decades-long battle with kidney disease that reversed course in 2022, after a transplant from his son-in-law, Greg Cox.
“It’s taught me, and the Scriptures that I believe in have taught me, that we are to live a day at a time, so I want to be open to them,” he said. “That’s what I tried to do on that day I voted and what I’m trying to do each day — make sure that I do the best I can and do what’s right.”