The race to fill an obscure but powerful statewide office in Texas has been overshadowed by national politics this year. That’s a shame not only because the office is important, but because the race for that office has been packed with strange twists and turns.
A lot of those twists and turns come down to perceptions (and misperceptions) about the names involved in the race for Texas Railroad Commissioner.
The Railroad Commission
When most voters hear that title, Railroad Commissioner, they may think about trains, and tune out. But the three-member Railroad Commission actually regulates the Texas oil and gas industry.
The industry is vital to the state’s economy. Texas is the largest producer of oil and gas in the country, so the commission is arguably one of the most important regulatory agencies in the country, as well. Simply put, it’s worth paying attention to.
The open seat on the commission is the only non-judicial statewide office Texans are voting on this year.
Grady Yarbrough is the Democratic nominee for Railroad Commissioner. He is a retired schoolteacher who has run unsuccessfully for a handful of other statewide offices.
It is safe to say he was not the first choice of the party establishment. Yarbrough is viewed by many as a political hobbyist, even a spoiler. He has refused to raise any money for his campaign, and sometimes shows a tenuous understanding the issues related to the office.
His critics say he won the crowded primary because his name sounds similar to that of former Sen. Ralph Yarborough. Yarbrough, who is black, credits his victory to support among African-American primary voters, who he says he worked hard to win over.
“The primary run off was really difficult but we made it through, and it seems to be much easier now than it was then,” he said.