The filing deadline is now past, and eight Republicans, three Democrats and a Libertarian have said they will run for a seat on the Texas Railroad Commission to replace David Porter, who unexpectedly decided not to run for re-election. Here’s the lineup:
- Gary Gates, Republican. Gates is a wealthy real estate developer and rancher from Rosenberg and a social conservative. He spent more than $1 million of his own money in an unsuccessful effort to take Comptroller Glenn Hegar’s former senate seat, losing to Lois Kolkhors in a special election – the fourth time he failed to win an election for the Texas legislature.
- John Greytok, Republican. He’s a lawyer and registered lobbyist and an early supporter of Ted Cruz. He wants the RRC to lead the charge against the Obama administration’s environmental policies.
- Wayne Christian, Republican. Former state representative from Center for 16 years, Christian ran for an open seat on the RRC in 2014 and was defeated by Ryan Sitton, who won the seat. Christian said that “Stakeholders within both the oil and gas industry and the conservative grassroots movement have flooded my phone with calls encouraging me to run.”
- Ron Hale, Republican. Hale ran unsuccessfully last year for a Houston state Senate seat.
- Gary Gates, Republican. Gates has run unsuccessfully for five legislative seats.
- Weston Martinez, Republican, from San Antonio, describes himself as a political and media strategist. Has not run for office before.
- Doug Jeffrey, Republican. Jeffrey is an Air Force veteran who manages his family’s farm and ranch business in Vernon. Has never run for office.
- Lance Christian, Republican. Lance is a geoscientist on the staff of the RRC and previously worked for the Texas Water Development Board.
- Lon Burnam, Democrat, who served 18 years in the Texas house before being defeated last year.
- Cody Garrett, Democrat, who describes himself as a former print and television journalist.
- Grady Yarbrough, Democrat. He ran in the Democratic primary for US Senate in 2012, losing in a runoff.
- Mark Miller, Libertarian. Miller also ran for RRC in 2014, garnering 3.2 percent of the vote.
No Democrat has held a position on the RRC for twenty years. Former Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson thought about running for the RRC spot, but decided against it. In a statement, Patterson said he thought “any nominee of the Republican Party should be able to enthusiastically support all other Republican nominees,” and that he could not support Donald Trump if he gets the nomination.
The Texas Railroad Commission has nothing to do with railroads. It is the agency responsible for regulating oil, gas and mining in Texas, including enforcement of environmental regulations, permitting wells, ensuring the safety of groundwater, and supervising pipelines. Except for the Commissioner of the General Land Office, it is the only state agency whose members are elected.
It seems that the quality and experience of candidates for the RRC may be declining. Only two of the candidates have ever held public office. Candidates have been defeated in elections at least thirteen times. None of the candidates except Lance Christian has special expertise in oil and gas regulation and none has served on a state regulatory agency board.