Updated, Nov. 23 | Texas Republican Louie Gohmert, a firebrand who led pre-Jan. 6 efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results and has since denounced the “un-American and illegal treatment” of people detained after the riots, announced Monday evening he would run for state attorney general and “enforce the rule of law.”
Gohmert joins a crowded primary against Attorney General Ken Paxton, whose efforts to file federal litigation furthering conservative causes have been undermined by his own legal troubles.
The move also potentially puts Gohmert at odds with former President Donald Trump after distinguishing himself as one of Trump’s staunchest and most media-savvy defenders in the House. Trump has endorsed Paxton in the attorney general’s race.
Gohmert began toying with a run earlier this month.
“We’ve reached our initial goal of raising $1 million in order to start a run,” Gohmert said in an announcement video as he pledged to work for border protection and electron integrity. He also took aim at Paxton without naming him.
“Our current AG has had two terms and it seems he really started working harder after so many of his most honorable and very top people in the AG’s office left complaining of criminal conduct,” Gohmert said. “If you allow me, I will not wait to be my busiest until after there’s some bad press about legal improprieties.”
A member of the House Freedom Caucus, Gohmert, 68, was first elected in 2004 and represents the 1st District, a sprawling stretch of eastern Texas that includes his hometown of Tyler.
A one-time Gohmert aide, Republican Aditya Atholi, had already said he was running for the 1st District seat, according to a local news report. “We’re 100 percent in the race either way,” Atholi told the Tyler Morning Telegraph, even before Gohmert announced his plans.
State Rep. Matt Krause, who had been running for attorney general, announced Monday night he will run instead for Tarrant County district attorney.
Gohmert's decision is unlikely to affect Republicans' efforts to retake the House majority. The 1st District, which voted for Donald Trump by 44 points in 2020, according to an analysis by Daily Kos Elections, would get even more solidly Republican under a new congressional map signed by Gov. Greg Abbott in October.
Gohmert, a nine-term House member and a former judge, was known for his frequent speeches on the House floor dubbed “Gohmert hour.”
He consistently ranks among the top lawmakers in speaking time logged on the House floor. His appearances are most often in the form of “special order” speeches that come after legislative business is done for the day.
When House operations went largely virtual in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gohmert took his speeches online and launched a podcast called “Special Order with Louie Gohmert.”
A reliable fiscal conservative adept at using obstructionist tactics against legislation he opposes – even when it frustrates his own party – Gohmert single-handedly held up fixes to a coronavirus aid package for a day in March, accusing Democrats of rushing the bill through the floor.
More recently, he led an effort to use the courts to pressure former Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the results of the 2020 election. The lawsuit was dismissed by a federal judge.
He was a reliable vote for his party, voting more than 95 percent of the time with Republicans on measures that split the parties during his tenure in Congress, according to CQ Vote Watch.
Gohmert, who grew up in the East Texas town of Mount Pleasant, followed his architect father in attending Texas A&M University on an ROTC scholarship, and later earned his degree at Baylor University.
After four years as an Army lawyer at Fort Benning, Ga., Gohmert returned to Texas in 1982 to work as a civil litigator. He won a seat on the Smith County District Court in 1992 and, a decade later, Republican then-Gov. Rick Perry appointed him to the Texas Court of Appeals.