GOP congressman who downplayed Capitol riot takes on Trump-endorsed Texas attorney general

Republican US Rep Louis Gohmert of Texas is entering a crowded field of candidates for the state’s next attorney general.

Mr Gohmert’s entry into the race means he will face incumbent attorney general Ken Paxton, who received Donald Trump’s endorsement earlier this year.

Following the Capitol riot, Mr Gohmert delivered a lengthy speech on the floor of the House of Representatives downplaying the assault on Congress and accusing Joe Biden of criminalising “political protest” following federal law enforcement’s arrests of alleged rioters.

“Their only crime was supporting Donald Trump and concern about the fraud Democrats have been telling us about in elections for many years,” he said on 14 May.

He was also one of 21 House Republicans to vote against a resolution to give law enforcement that supported the Capitol on 6 January a Congressional Gold Medal.

Following the 2020 presidential election, he filed a lawsuit in an attempt to force then-vice president Mike Pence to reject millions of Americans’ votes during the electoral college certification.

The lawsuit, which was tossed out, was among several spurious legal challenges filed by Mr Trump and his allies in an attempt to overturn election results, a campaign that has morphed into GOP lawmakers’ nationwide “election integrity” bid to pass state-level laws making it harder to vote and to consolidate electoral oversight in Republican-dominated state legislatures .

In his campaign announcement video, Mr Gohmert said his “priority will be election integrity”.

Mr Paxton also led the GOP’s long-shot bid to overturn election results in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin – states that Joe Biden won – by accusing them of using illegal pandemic-related changes to election protocols, like expanding mail-in voting and early-voting options during the public health crisis.

He announced an “election integrity unit” to “monitor” elections “in accordance with state law”.

The US Department of Justice has sued Texas over its restrictive election law signed by Governor Greg Abbott in September over violations of the Voting Rights Act and Civil Rights Act, as it targets “voters with limited English proficiency, voters with disabilities, elderly voters, members of the military” who are deployed as well as American citizens who are out of the country.

“I will see you in court, Biden!” Mr Paxton wrote on Twitter in response.

Mr Paxton also faces an indictment on charges of securities fraud and faces an FBI probe into allegations that he has abused his office to boost a wealthy donor. He has denied wrongdoing in both cases.

Mr Gohmert appeared to exploit his opponent’s legal troubles for his chance to enter the race.

“If you allow me, I will not wait to be my busiest until after there’s some bad press about illegal improprieties,” Mr Gohmert said in his announcement video. “I’ll start boldly protecting your rights on Day 1.”

Mr Gohmert also is picking up familiar GOP platforms by taking aim at public health guidance during the coronavirus pandemic, which he has called “unconstitutional”, and posing a hardline against immigration, which he has characterised as “the invasion across our Southern border”.

He is at least the fourth Republican opponent to enter the primary to oust Mr Paxton, including George P Bush, the state’s current land commissioner, who is the son of Jeb Bush and nephew of former President George W Bush and grandson of the late former President George HW Bush.

At least three Democrats are entering the race.

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