After repeatedly pledging not to accept any campaign contributions, railroad commissioner candidate Sarah Stogner has reversed her position, with the latest finance reports showing more than $2 million in donations.
With the exception of $124 collected by Bowie County Patriots—who Stogner says passed around a hat for collections after seeing her speak—the only other contributions reported by Stogner are $2 million of in-kind donations from Ashley Watt.
Ashley Watt—formerly Andrew Watt—is a transgender ranching heir whom Stogner has had a close relationship with in recent years. Stogner serves as Watt’s lawyer and lives on his ranch in West Texas.
Watt has reportedly been motivated to get involved in the race after issues with an oil well near his ranch.
“I am not a political person. I don’t really care about politics,” Watt told The Texas Tribune. “But when an old Chevron oil well blew out radioactive brine water into my drinking water aquifer, ruining my ranch and forcing me to sell my entire cattle herd, the Railroad Commission teamed up with Chevron to work against me.”
Meanwhile, Stogner has criticized her opponent, incumbent Wayne Christian, for accepting campaign contributions from parties who have business before the commission. Christian said Stogner’s criticism is hypocritical.
“It is the height of hypocrisy for Sarah Stogner to criticize me for taking a contribution from someone who recently had business before the Railroad Commission, when she has accepted a contribution of $2 million from a single donor who currently has business before the commission,” Christian told Texas Scorecard.
“From donating to Beto O’Rourke’s campaign to voicing support for the defund the police movement, critical race theory, and abortion to advocating for increased regulations on the oil and gas industry, it is clear conservatives cannot trust Sarah Stogner.”
Stogner, however, says the decision to accept contributions became necessary to get her message out.
“The general election for RRC in November will attract millions in out-of-state ultra-left donations to my opponent,” Stogner told Texas Scorecard. “I believe in Texas jobs, Texas environmental protection, Texas oilfield taxes, and our Texas economy. If using Texas funding to promote my stance on these ideals upsets my opponent, so be it. But he takes bribes from the industry he regulates. That’s a distinction with a difference.”
“I’m in it to win it. And I won’t back down,” she added.
In recent weeks, Stogner has already used the contribution for an $800,000 television ad buy. The spot is a far cry from the viral video that gained Stogner notoriety and public attention in February, in which she posed mostly nude atop an oil jack pump.
During the same period, Christian’s campaign has reported $528,843 in contributions.
Despite its name, the Railroad Commission oversees oil and gas in the state. Three railroad commissioners serve staggered six-year terms, with one commissioner facing statewide election every two years.
Early voting continues through Friday, with Election Day on Tuesday, May 24.