Continuing a series on the different questions appearing on the November 2014 ballot, this is a look at the seven statewide offices that will be up for election next year. In future posts each office and their specific duties and how the races are shaping up will be examined more closely.
Learn more about the top of the 2014 ticket after the jump.The statewide elected offices below are considered to be in the Executive Branch of the Texas government, compared to the State Senate and State House in the Legislative, and all the positions that make up the third branch, the Judicial, which will be covered in a future post. Every race below is expected to have a contested Republican primary, and only one Democratic candidate – former El Paso Mayor John Cook for Land Commissioner – has announced any intention to run. More on who has announced and how their fundraising efforts have shaped up was written about earlier on BOR.
The top Executive office, of course, is Governor. The Governor of Texas draws a $150,000 annual salary and serves a four-year term. As the leader of one of the biggest states in the country, there are few elected offices in America comparable in power to Governor of Texas. Presently, there are no term limits on any statewide office, including Governor, although a measure calling for that gained support (but failed to be enacted) during the last legislative session. Lieutenant Governor Rick Perry assumed the Governorship in 2000 when then-Governor George Bush won the presidential election. Perry has since won re-election three times to become Texas' longest serving governor. This will be an open seat in 2014 with Perry's announced retirement, the first time in 24 years that the race for Governor will not include the incumbent.
After Governor, Lieutenant Governor is arguably the second most powerful seat in Texas. The Lt. Governor presides over the Texas Senate, and holds sway over that chamber's course of direction over a session, in part by setting up committees and then appointing committee chairs and deciding all parliamentary questions. The Lt. Governor is the only elected official to be in both the Executive and Legislative branches. David Dewhurst is the current Lt. Governor, he draws a $7,200 annual salary and, like all other Senators and Representatives, a $150 per diem allowance for every day of the 140-day regular and 30-day special sessions. Of the seven statewide offices in this post, Dewhurst is the only incumbent expected to seek re-election to this four-year-term office.
In the words of current Attorney General Greg Abbott, the job of Texas' top attorney is to “sue Obama”, however the Texas Constitution says the lawyer for the State will represent Texas in litigation, approve public bond issues, and defend the Texas Constitution. Abbott is now running for Governor. The Attorney General has a four-year term and, like the Governor, draws a $150,000 annual salary from the State of Texas.
The Texas Comptroller also has a four-year term and is the tax collector for the State of Texas, with several other fiscal responsibilities as well, not the least of which is to certify to the Legislature the amount of money on hand and the expected tax revenues for the upcoming two-year period that the state budgets for every session. It was current Comptroller Susan Combs' gross underestimate of that figure in 2011 that led to billions of dollars being unnecessarily cut from the 2011-12 state budget by misinformed state legislators. This office also draws a $150,000 annual salary. Comptroller Combs is the only current statewide officeholder not expected to be somewhere on the ballot in 2014.
Commissioners of Land, Agriculture, and (not) the Railroad
The last three statewide offices on the November 2014 ballot are Commissioners: Land, Agriculture and one of the three Railroad Commissioner seats. All three draw a $137,500 annual salary from the state. The Land and Agriculture seats have four-year terms, the Railroad Commissioner fills a six-year term. The Land Commissioner is the top position at the Texas General Land Office, charged with managing state-controlled lands and mineral rights properties. The Agriculture Commissioner heads the Texas Department of Agriculture, a huge governmental agency that manages the rural affairs and agricultural concerns of the state. Finally, the Railroad Commissioner serves alongside two other Commissioners as the top officials in the Texas Railroad Commission, which, despite its name, regulates the massive oil and gas industry in the state. All of these seats will be open as all the current officeholders are hoping to move up the political ladder.
There is one other statewide elected office on the 2014 ballot that was not mentioned above, United States Senator, but as that is a federal office and not a state office, I'll save that for a future post.
What is certain is that for the Democrats to make headway in their efforts to “Turn Texas Blue”, there will actually have to be candidates at the top of the ticket to vote for and support. Hopefully, in short order, more of the above ballot spots will see some additional progressive voices jump into the fight. Their Republican counterparts grow the head start they've been given with every passing day.