The Office of the Attorney General was first established by executive ordinance of the Republic of Texas government in 1836. The attorneys general of the Republic of Texas and the first four attorneys general under the 1845 state constitution were appointed by the governor. The office was made elective in 1850 by constitutional amendment.
The attorney general is elected to a four-year term. The current 49th attorney general of Texas is Greg Abbott (Republican), in office since December 2, 2002. Abbott was re-elected in 2006 and 2010 and as of July 18, 2012, he is the longest-serving Attorney General in Texas history and by the end of his third term, Abbott will have served about 12 years in office. In 2013, Governor Rick Perry announced that he would not seek reelection. As expected, Abbott then announced his plans to run for Governor. Ken Paxton, Barry Smitherman, and Dan Branch announced their campaigns to seek the Republican nomination to succeed Greg Abbott as Attorney General of Texas. The Republican Primary will be held on March 4, 2014.
The attorney general is charged by the state constitution to defend the laws and constitution of Texas, represent the state in litigation, and approve public bond issues. There are nearly 2,000 references to the Office of the Attorney General in state laws.
To fulfill these responsibilities, the Office of the Attorney General serves as legal counsel to all boards and agencies of state government, issues legal opinions when requested by the governor, heads of state agencies and other officials and commissions, and defends challenges to state laws and suits against both state agencies and individual employees of the state. These duties include representing the Director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in appeals from criminal convictions in federal courts. The Office of the Attorney General, Law Enforcement Division employs a staff of sworn commissioned Texas peace officers (state police) that investigate public corruption, violent crime, human trafficking, money laundering, medicaid provider fraud, mortgage fraud, election violations, cybercrime, fugitives (apprehension), investigate other special classes of offenses, and conduct criminal investigations at the request of local prosecutors. In addition, the Law Enforcement Division is the state of Texas liaison to Interpol (International Criminal Police Organization) and the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). The office is also charged with proceedings to secure child support through its Child Support Division.