Primary Colors – Part 2 – Continuing Strong Leadership in the Attorney General’s office to Represent Texas Against Washington, D.C.

The March 4 primary is right around the corner and early voting starts Tuesday. This is the second in a series. (The first is here.) I cannot overstate the importance of your vote and the impact it has in the primary.

Texas Attorney General

This race is perhaps as hotly contested if not more so than others I’ve written about, as there are two genuinely conservative candidates, Railroad Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman and Senator Ken Paxton. Both have committed supporters I know and respect who have been “in the trenches” in the culture wars for years and even decades. While politics is sometimes described as a “blood sport”, especially when high stakes are involved, both campaigns have been run relatively cleanly thus far.

However, elections are about choices and when I compare the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates in light of the requirements of the Texas Attorney General’s office; I come down firmly on the side of Chairman Barry Smitherman.

Fit for Purpose: First, the Attorney General’s office is an agency, not a legislative body. It does NOT make law—it helps enforce it after it is made by the legislature. There are no “votes” at all. Barry Smitherman has unparalleled experience in doing this, having served seven years with the Public Utility Commission of Texas and now serving as Chair of the Texas Railroad Commission—one of the most influential agencies in the world when it comes to oil and gas production. In Barry Smitherman’s case, he has presided over the TxRRC during an unprecedented boom in the Texas oilfield stretching from South Texas to the Panhandle and West Texas to Louisiana.

Fighting Washington: While the feds are trying to stop oil and gas (and coal), Barry Smitherman has promoted Texas and National energy independence in a very tangible way. Permitting times (efficiency) and sheer numbers of oil and gas permits (productivity) have improved and increased respectively under Smitherman’s leadership. This is particularly noteworthy since concepts of efficiency and productivity do not usually get mentioned in the same sentence as government agencies. The result has been a booming Texas oilfield, with tens of thousands of new, good, high-paying jobs for Texas and Americans who are refugees from the over-reaching regulations of both Washington and the states they are fleeing such as California and New York. While those states have gone along with Washington, Texas leaders like Greg Abbott and Barry Smitherman have pushed back.

Current AG Abbott has often described his job as the best in the world—to wit: “I get up in the morning, go to work, and sue the Federal government.” While a great line, there is a lot of truth to it as the Federal government overreaches with both unconstitutional laws and out of control bureaucratic rulings. Barry Smitherman’s tenure at the Texas RRC has seen numerous RRC-initiated lawsuits pushing back on this Federal government overreach. His opponents have none of this type of critical-to-Texas experience in fighting Washington. Barry Smitherman has the RIGHT experience to step in and continue the work Greg Abbott and former Solicitor General Ted Cruz started.

Experience Running Large Agencies: Barry Smitherman is the ONLY candidate in the race who has ANY experience running a large agency such as the Attorney General’s office, which employs around 700 attorneys alone, not counting support staff. I am happy to report that while most candidates promise and pledge to “save you money”, Barry Smitherman has a proven track record of actually doing so! In fact, he saved about 20% of what the legislature had authorized while at the Public Utility Commission of Texas, translating into about $110,000,000 in savings returned to the Texas Treasury--$110 million dollars of your hard-earned money that was already authorized but he did NOT spend! Let that sink in. Don’t you wish ALL of our elected officials operated that way?

In his first year at the RRC, he saved taxpayers an additional $10,000,000 of what the legislature had spent. For his own personal office, he rejected increases and saved about 7% year over year—FY2014 will cost less than FY2012 did! If only all government would actually downsize!

But as they say on TV, there’s more. After becoming chairman of the PUCT, they actually reduced a fee levied by government on consumers to pay for access in underserved areas and redistributed to companies, including large ones, to subsidize service. This was a win for both the cell phone/cable industry and more importantly, consumers, resulting in an annual savings of $145,000,000 to Texas phone customers.

Net: Barry Smitherman has a sterling track record spanning nearly a decade of actually saving taxpayers and ratepayers’ money, adding up to well over $265,000,000 dollars and continuing! Can ANY of the other candidates show a record of saving taxpayers anything even close to this, or for that matter, anything at all? In contrast, his opponents were in the very legislature that was spending more than Barry, and that was blasted by the venerable Wall Street Journal with an editorial headlined “Texas Goes Sacramento” (stay tuned for Primary Colors Part 3 article)!

Pure Leadership Ability: While solid values are critical for the Attorney General, it is NOT a “voting” position—no voting at all—but a successful AG must above all know how to lead and be experienced at that skill. If you have ever met Smitherman, or heard him speak (especially side-by-side with the other candidates), you know that he is clearly the stronger leader of the three. While there are two clear conservatives in the race, Barry Smitherman is the one with the gift of strong leadership skills.

He’s completely ready to step into the shoes of Greg Abbott on “day one”!

He has a terrific wife and family (in part home-schooled) to support him, I count him as a friend, and I gladly endorse him in his race.

Thank you.

Mark Ramsey

Mark is a State Republican Executive Committeeman, (SREC) representing Senate District 7, and has twice served on the GOP State Convention Platform Committee. One of the duties of the SREC is “to foster and encourage growth in the Party by promoting the principles as expressed in the platform and by electing Republican officeholders.”

My other choices are listed below. True to my engineering background, if more data becomes available that would change the result, I’ll advise that as well. My picks, along with some independent others’ whose opinion I value (not always agreeing with me) are also located at You may take them to the voting booth. And don’t forget your photo ID to vote!



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