Runoffs Around The Bend For Railroad Commission Hopefuls

Mar 22, 2016

Two Democrats and two Republicans hope to be on statewide ballots in November for a vacant seat on the three-person Railroad Commission of Texas.

  Audio transcript

Nine weeks from today is May 24th. That's runoff Tuesday in Texas, when party primary races that weren't decided in March will be determined in runoff's between the top two finishers. Earlier this month on North By Northeast, we discussed the two East Texas Republicans who are running for their party's nomination to replace fellow Republican Thomas Ratliff on the State Board of Education.  

There are a few other state government races that Northeast Texas Republicans and Democrats can help decide in two months. We have one State Senate and one State House of Representatives nomination still up for grabs. But first, something different.

As longtime Texas government watchers know, the Texas Railroad Commission is the agency that spends most of its time regulating the state's oil and gas industry. There's a place coming open on the commission.  

David Porter, a Republican who's served the agency since 2010, will be retiring after having served as Railroad Commission chairman. Porter is best known for his work on the the Eagle Ford Shale Task Force. After this month's primaries, two Republicans and two Democrats have a shot at the open seat. On the GOP side, Houston-area real estate executive Gary Gates got the most votes. Gates also spent the most money on his campaign - over a million dollars. It wasn't his first run for office - Gates has run four times for the Texas Legislature without success. He'll face second-place Republican Wayne Christian, who hails from Deep East Texas. Christian is a former president of the Texas Conservative Coalition and served in the Texas Legislature from 1996 to 2012.

On the Democratic side, Grady Yarbrough is a retired teacher from San Antonio who ran for the U.S. Senate in 2012 and lost the Democratic Party runoff to Paul Sadler. Yarbrough finished first and was followed by Cody Garrett. Garrett is a former print media and television reporter from Austin.

Whichever two candidates win their parties' runoffs in May will have a chance to join the three-person governing body of The Railroad Commission of Texas. Commissioners serve six-year terms and one seat is contested every two years. Christi Craddick and Ryan Sitton did not have to defend their seats this election year. In addition to oil and gas, the commission also regulates the mining industry and pipeline safety in Texas. Despite its name, the agency no longer regulates railroads. A bill to rename the Railroad Commission was introduced in 2013, but did not pass. The bill included other measures presented as reforms.

Speaking of crude oil, it's recovered after having bottomed out near the 30-dollar mark recently. Today, West Texas Intermediate Crude was selling for just more than 41 dollars per barrel. For KETR News, this is Mark Haslett.