Ken Paxton makes a run for it: Fleeing a subpoena, the Texas AG epitomizes cowardice of GOP bullies

Tying with Josh Hawley for the "running Republicans" trophy, the anti-choice lawyer cites fear of a process server

By Amanda Marcotte

Senior Writer

Published September 27, 2022 12:30PM (EDT)

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton waves after speaking during CPAC on July 11, 2021 in Dallas, Texas. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton waves after speaking during CPAC on July 11, 2021 in Dallas, Texas. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Bullies are always the biggest cowards underneath their blustery exteriors, we know that. But it is satisfying nevertheless when some of the biggest jerks of the GOP prove the point. So it was Monday, when the Texas Tribune reported that Ken Paxton, the bellicose attorney general of Texas, fled a subpoena like it was a magical mirror that reflects the state of a viewer's soul. All credit to the process server, Ernesto Herrera, for his plain-written but evocative affidavit describing the response he got from Paxton, who talks tough on Twitter but ran when facing a man simply asking if he could hand him a stack of papers. 

"As soon as he saw me and heard me call his name out, he turned around and RAN back inside the house through the same door in the garage," Herrera describes. He then observed Paxton's wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, get in a black Chevy and leave the back door open while she started it. "A few minutes later I saw Mr. Paxton RAN from the door inside the garage towards the rear door behind the driver side," he writes. At which point the couple peeled away from the house, leaving the subpoena on the driveway where Herrera had placed it. 

Want more Amanda Marcotte on politics? Subscribe to her newsletter Standing Room Only.

Paxton, who likes to issue threats about filing frivolous lawsuits against President Joe Biden, is trying to avoid a lawsuit from a group of abortion funds. The groups are defending their right to help patients who need to leave Texas, where abortion is banned, in order to get care. Under the Texas "bounty hunter" law, it's not just illegal to perform an abortion, but anyone who helps a patient can be sued for "abetting" an abortion. This means abortion funds can't give abortion patients money to leave the state without risking being sued by bitter ex-boyfriends, nosy mothers-in-law or sadistic bullies using the power of the Texas attorney general's office. 

The law, the funds say, "violates Plaintiffs' rights to freely travel, freely associate, freely speak, and freely support members of their communities through financial assistance."

Showing up in court to deal with this lawsuit does not sound nearly as scary as, say, having to wait for your miscarriage to go septic before doctors are allowed to treat you, as Texas is forcing hospitals to do. It's certainly not as scary as being told you must bear a rapist's baby, as Texas does not have a rape exception in its law. It's not even as scary as seeing that positive pregnancy test when you're a sophomore in college, and you have no idea how you're going to make it all the way to New Mexico to get an abortion. 

But Paxton, whose feelings were clearly hurt by the Texas Tribune reporting on the Great Chevy Escape, decided it was time to tweet through the shame. He claims that he feared for his life, seeing that man wave legal documents at him. 

"[T]hey're attacking me for having the audacity to avoid a stranger lingering outside my home and showing concern about the safety and well-being of my family," he whined on Twitter, after arguing that "conservatives have faced threats to their safety."

Want more Amanda Marcotte on politics? Subscribe to her newsletter Standing Room Only.

According to the sworn affidavit filed by Herrara, Angela Paxton had opened the door when he knocked and "explained to her that I was trying to deliver important legal documents." She told him her husband was on the phone, so Herrara waited. When Paxton finally made his run towards the Chevy, Herrara "loudly called him by his name and stated that I had court documents for him."

Is it plausible that the top lawyer in Texas, a man with a law degree from the University of Virginia, does not understand what a subpoena is or that it is delivered by a process server? Of course not. These are just the mewling excuses of a man caught giving Missouri's Sen. Josh "Running Man" Hawley stiff competition for the prize of Biggest Republican Wiener. 

Of course, Paxton isn't just a standout when it comes to being lily-livered. He's also an enormous bully, even by Republican standards. But like most cowardly bullies, he clearly prefers his victims to be as vulnerable as possible. It's not just his sadistic posture towards pregnant patients seeking medical care. He also has it out for poor people who want health care, suing the Biden administration for trying to get them into Medicaid. He also loves punishing people of color for voting, by siccing teams of investigators on people who rarely have done anything more serious than accidentally filling out a form wrong. 

Paxton especially likes to pick on children. He's been waging war on trans kids, calling gender affirmation care "so-called sex change procedures" and threatening to remove kids from their families for being trans. He and Republican Gov. Greg Abbott have been forcing Child Protective Services to harass families with trans kids, falsely claiming it's "abuse" to accept a child's gender identity. In doing so, Paxton simply makes up facts to justify his bigotry. 

The documents Paxton wrote to defend attacking trans kids "ignore established medical authorities and repeat discredited, outdated, and poor-quality information," a team of medical experts from Yale and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center explained in May. The report is so bad and so full of disinformation they wrote, "it is difficult to believe that the opinion represents a good-faith effort" and "is, rather, motivated by bias and crafted to achieve a preordained goal: to deny gender-affirming care to transgender youth."

Even before his 5-yard dash to avoid paperwork, Paxton epitomized the cowardly bully. He's got a long and tawdry history of inflicting pain on vulnerable people, but always from afar so he doesn't have to look in their eyes while he attempts to destroy their lives. He gets to write the paperwork. It's other people he sends to arrest grandmothers for writing down an address wrong on a voter registration form, to deny a miscarrying woman treatment, or to tell parents they are under investigation for loving a trans kid. Still, these paperwork bullies of the GOP are so ubiquitous it's easy to forget sometimes the depths of their pusillanimity. At least, that is, until some dude shows up waving a stack of papers at the Texas AG, and he runs like Jesus finally showed up to have a word about the cruelty he's been passing off as Christian morality. 

By Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a senior politics writer at Salon and the author of "Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself." Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte and sign up for her biweekly politics newsletter, Standing Room Only.

MORE FROM Amanda Marcotte

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Commentary Greg Abbott Ken Paxton Texas Abortion Ban Trans Rights