So, this is last minute, with election day tomorrow, but some of these races will be deciding the new occupant of the job, where there is no creditable democrat opposition. So your vote in this runoff is not only important, it will count for more than usual, because so few people go to vote in a runoff election.
Note: There are fewer voting locations open, because a runoff has fewer voters, so locations have combined. If you go to your regular voting day precinct voting location, it might not be there. So look up ahead of time where to go: harrisvotes.com.
Texas Railroad Commissioner Races
The RR Commissioner is not about railroads; it is about oil and gas and resource management. You want someone in this job that understands how Texas’s economy is tied to energy, gas, and use of natural resources. Texas is set up with three statewide commissioners; they are 6-year terms coming up for election in alternating years. However, because one of the commissioners stepped down with an unexpired term, there’s more than one position on the ballot.
Michael Williams had stepped down to run for a congressional seat (after serving as RR Commissioner for more than one term), and Governor Perry appointed Barry Smitherman to fill that slot; he is now on the ballot for that unexpired term. He didn’t receive 50% of the vote in the primary, so is now facing opponent Greg Parker. This is one of those cases where I recognize I am influenced by meeting people in person. I voted for Smitherman in the primary, based only on what I found online. He was the appointed incumbent, and I couldn’t see that the position was causing any particular issues.
But then Greg Parker came to speak. This was the second time he came to speak to our group, but I’d missed the first one earlier in the spring. But the others assure me he was equally impressive both times. He’s a relatively young, very smart, very funny black guy. (Note: I mean no offense by using the term black to apply to race; African-American seems inaccurate, since Charlize Theron is an actual African-American, and to be accurate we’d need to say “descended from an African race with greater melanin concentration,” which would be unwieldy. Incidentally, we’ve had a surprising number of blacks, Hispanics, and even Vietnamese candidates speak at our meetings, and unlike the stories you get from media, their ideology as conservatives makes them completely welcome among us, and we hope they are the vanguard of many among various minorities that join us because we have so much in common.)
Greg Parker has a PhD in public policy and studied economics at MIT. As he said, “I’ve been trained by all the liberals, and I’m still conservative.” He wrote a book meant to reveal the myth of global warning (Global Warming…Really?—which I have not yet gotten hold of, but I’m interested after hearing him). This seems to be a specific difference between him and Smitherman. Both claim to be conservative, want more jobs for Texas, and want energy independence. But it may be that Smitherman’s direction toward that end is by way of “green” energy, such as wind power. I’m not against wind power, and there are parts of the state where that makes sense. But it’s expensive; it doesn’t create a lot of jobs; and it’s not a solution to government interference in the use of our state’s natural resources.
I had hoped to hear from Smitherman, to hear his version of his policies. But he didn’t make it. So, knowing what I do right now, based on meeting Parker in person, I’m giving him my vote in the runoff election.
The other RR Commissioner position was held by Elizabeth Ames Jones, who chose to run for US Senate rather than run for reelection. So this was also an open seat. The two on the ballot are Christi Craddick, a private lawyer specializing in the oil and gas world—from all directions, including land owners as well as small and large operating companies. She has helped write legislation favorable to business in the state, restricting regulation to just what is needed to protect property rights as well as reasonably clean air and water. Her opponent is Warren Chisum, a reliable conservative from the state legislature, who has run a small operator company in oil and gas.
Again, I am influenced by meeting a candidate in person. Christi Craddick is impressive, and handles questions related to various aspects of the business very well, with a wealth of information in her knowledge base. She has a successful practice, where she does a lot of good for the industry. It is probably a cut in pay to take on this job, but it is her passion, and she believes she can well serve the state. She has a lot of energy, and good ideas for meeting people in the field across the state. She grew up in Midland, in a family that has been in oil and gas for generations. She believes in hearing from the people who work in the industry; you can’t do this job from a desk in Austin.
Which brings us to what we know of her opponent. He’s a democrat who has run for RR Commissioner at least twice, and is about 80 years old; remember, this is a six-year term. In other words, the real race is being settled now, in the runoff election. I have nothing in particular against Warren Chisum. But hearing from her, I am convinced she is a good fit for the job.
Harris County Sheriff
One of the tougher races on the ballot right now is for Harris County Sheriff. Harris County, where Houston (a liberal-run metropolis) is located, is one of the largest law enforcement jurisdictions in the nation. It requires someone who is not only very strong on law and order, but also someone good at managing people among challenging circumstances. I like both of the candidates: Louis Guthrie and Carl Pittman. I have heard both of them, more than once, in person. I solved the indecision between them by voting for a third candidate (Ruben Monzon, who was also impressive and had been recommended to me, although I hadn’t met him) in the primary. Now it’s down to these two.
Both campaigns have dug up a bit of dirt on the other. I don’t have the resources to ferret out what if any is true, or maybe even important. So, setting that aside, I am leaning toward Louis Guthrie. I believe he has better experience, of longer duration in this area. And I believe he has both more management experience as well as natural leadership qualities.
Carl Pittman has been endorsed by Arizona’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio, which either hurts or helps, depending on your viewpoint. (My son Political Sphere spent half a decade in Arizona, and has mixed feelings about Sheriff Joe.) He’s a big, friendly, conservative black man. Again, totally welcome in our party. I hope that as we make a decision like this, if it goes against him, he will still be a leader in bringing other minorities who share so many of our values into the conservative camp.
This race is not one that will be settled during the runoff. The incumbent is Democrat Adrian Garcia, who got into office during the Obama sweep of county races. He will be a formidable opponent. My sense is that Louis Guthrie is best able to take on that challenge.
There are a few judges in the runoff. There are just a couple I feel strongly. One is David Medina for Supreme Court, Place 4. He spoke to our little group and seemed to me very well informed, very capable, and truly conservative in the constitutional sense. Another is Michael Landrum, for District Judge, 129th District (in Harris County area). He comes regularly to our meetings, and I like what he has to say. But also numerous other sources have recommended him, reinforcing my opinion.