Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and his wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, left Texas and traveled to Utah last week while the state was being rocked by severe winter storms.
Paxton’s campaign spokesperson, Ian Prior, would not tell CNN when the couple had departed or returned but said the attorney general “did not leave Texas until after power had returned to most of the state, including his own home.”
“Attorney General Paxton attended a previously planned meeting with the attorney general of Utah to discuss several matters,” Prior said, listing a law enforcement scenario simulator demonstration and “strategizing” on a Google lawsuit as some of the reasons for the travel.
Paxton’s trip makes him the second high-profile Republican to leave the state during the crisis, after Sen. Ted Cruz was spotted on a plane headed to Cancun, Mexico, last week while millions of Texans were left without power or water. After returning to Houston on Thursday afternoon, Cruz told reporters outside his home it was “obviously a mistake” and that “in hindsight I wouldn’t have done it.”
“I started having second thoughts almost the moment I sat down on the plane, because on the one hand, all of us who are parents have a responsibility to take care of our kids, take care of our family. That’s something Texans have been doing across the state,” said Cruz, who had said in an earlier statement that he had flown to Mexico because his daughters had asked to take a trip and he was trying to be a “good dad.”
As an official elected to federal office, Cruz doesn’t have an on-the-ground role in the response to the storm, but natural disasters are often a time in which constituents reach out to their elected officials for help and access to resources.
As Texas attorney general, Paxton is responsible for overseeing key aspects of the state’s response to the devastating winter storm.
As a result, he’s faced swift backlash from Democratic politicians in the state, including Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa, who said in a statement, “Texas Republicans do not give a damn about the people they were elected to represent, and they continue to focus on issues that don’t affect the lives of everyday Texans to gaslight them into thinking they are doing their jobs.”
Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary and Texas native Julian Castro similarly tweeted that Paxton and Cruz “couldn’t care less about the people they’re supposed to represent.”
While state officials work to turn the lights back on for the Texas households still in the dark and to address widespread water disruptions, some residents are facing damage that could take weeks — or months — to recover from.
Some 8.6 million people — nearly a third of the state’s population — were still having water disruptions Monday evening, according to Gary Rasp, media specialist for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.