Former conservative lawmaker Wayne Christian won the Republican nomination for Railroad Commissioner last night after an Election Day surge in rural Texas pushed him roughly 7,000 votes past Houston slumlord Gary Gates.
The race featured massive spending by Gates, whose multimillion dollar strategy seemed to hinge on tidal waves of poster board size mailers inundating Texans’ mailboxes in the state’s largest counties. To that effect Gates was successful, winning the majority of Texas’ largest counties and a majority of the early vote statewide.
However, as the night progressed, conservative voters in East Texas and West Texas pushed the election into the hands of Christian.
For those counting at home, this race marks a mind boggling seven straight losses for Gary Gates.
Meanwhile it’s a comeback win for Christian who was defeated for the same position in 2014 by now-incumbent Commissioner Ryan Sitton. (The Railroad Commission has three seats.) It’s also a win for conservatives, who universally supported Christian and spent very little on the race compared to Gates.
The victory also marks another statewide office that grassroots conservatives have now marked as their own. As evidenced by the reform-minded leadership of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, such a change can have a major impact on the status quo.
Christian’s win is another major repudiation of House Speaker Joe Straus (R–San Antonio) and the coalition government of liberal Republicans and Democrats that govern the House chamber. In 2011, Straus and his coalition government redistricted Christian out of his seat in the legislature in the hopes of devastating their conservative opposition. Once again, taking on Straus and his liberal coalition was seen as a badge of honor worthy of a promotion in the eyes of Texas voters.