One of our hallmarks at Empower Texans and Texans for Fiscal Responsibility has been to resist the urge to endorse in every race, and to endorse for the sake of endorsing. We tend to make an endorsement only when we believe we can serve our readers by bringing a particular perspective to a race. Many have asked us to weigh in on the looming Railroad Commission race, and we have thus far refrained.
Let me explain why.
First, a little background. The Railroad Commission has nothing to do with choo-choo trains and everything to do with the state’s energy sector. It is the primary regulatory agency over the oil and gas industry. From the drilling of the wells to the moving the crude through the production stream, the RRC is involved at every stage.
The three commissioners, who serve staggered 6-year terms, act as both a regulatory and quasi-judicial agency. They and the staff at the RRC have tremendous power.
Given the starring role the oil and gas industry has in Texas’ economy, the importance of the Railroad Commission cannot be overstated.
So, we should obviously make an endorsement, trying to help identify the “right” guy gets elected. Absolutely true.
But that’s where things get cloudy in this 2014 race for the RRC.
We find voters facing the happy situation of two strong candidates vying for the position in the May 27th run-off election. Strong in different ways, but both strong nonetheless.
In Wayne Christian, we have a senior statesman whose track-record as a conservative legislative leader is unmatched. He was always willing to fight the hard fights and stand firm for conservative values. Practically, though, he has little professional experience in the industry he would be daily regulating.
In Ryan Sitton, we have a conservative young entrepreneur who started and helms a successful oil and gas business. He understands the technical challenges of the industry better than most. On the other hand, he has never served in elected office so we don’t have a record by which to gauge his future performance.
To the extent you are hiring a proven conservative warrior for the RRC, Wayne Christian is your man.
If you want a subject-matter expert to help improve the RRC’s operations, Ryan Sitton is your man.
Texas had trouble with politicians using the office as a platform to run for their next office instead of focusing on the agency’s business; the RRC needs a lot of focus. Which of the two is more likely to dig in and make a difference should be carefully weighed.
Will Ryan just use it as a springboard? He is young and fits that profile. Does Wayne want to work that hard, or just have a cushy retirement gig?
Or, is each truly dedicated to really serving the people of Texas by focusing on the task at hand for the next six years?
The choice comes down to which type of conservative you want: young or experienced, established conservative fighter or subject matter expert. Frankly, the Railroad Commission – and all of our state agencies, and all of our elected offices – need to be filled with both.
Knowing both men, I am very comfortable with either serving in the office. I look forward to seeing which hire Texans make!