March 3, 2020

David Whipping Goliath in Super Tuesday Shocker
that Could Help Dems Snap Statewide Losing Streak

By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor

Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton appeared to be going down in flames in the GOP primary election on Tuesday night after spending 66,666 times more than the challenger who's poised to knock him off the three-member board that regulates the oil and gas industry here.

Republican Jim Wright - a Robstown energy firm owner who's no relation to the former U.S. House speaker from Fort Worth - was leading Sitton with almost 55 percent of the vote with 37 percent of the precincts across the state reporting.

A victory by Wright would represent one of the most shocking upsets in the history of the Lone Star State. It would mark the second time in 10 years that an incumbent on the RRC lost a re-election race in a primary fight with an opponent who'd appeared to have no chance whatsoever of winning.

But David Porter's victory over then-Railroad Commissioner Victor Carrillo in the GOP primary election in 2020 had been widely perceived as a sign that Republican voters in Texas simply preferred candidates with Anglo names over Hispanics. That isn't the case in the race that Sitton had been a prohibitive favorite to win heading into Super Tuesday.

Sitton's monumental ouster would boost the Democrats' odds for winning statewide in Texas for the first time in 26 years. Democratic voters will pick a RRC nominee in a spring runoff that feature a pair of Dallas residents in first-round leader Chrysta Castañeda and former Texas House member Roberto Alonzo.

Castañeda is an attorney who used to represent the late Texas oil tycoon Boone Pickens. Alonzo, who's also a lawyer, served in the Legislature's lower chamber for 20 years before falling shot in the primary election in 2018 when State Rep. Jessica Gonzalez unseated him.

Sitton's only apparent cause for fear had been the prospects for a blue wave with President Donald Trump leading the GOP ticket in November. While Sitton spent about $800,000 on his first re-election campaign before the end of February, he had more than $2.2 million socked away for the fall heading into the final 10 days of the primary race.

Wright shelled out a grand total of $12,000 on the race and had that same basic amount in the bank on February 22.

Some GOP voters might have confused the RRC challenger with the North Texas Democrat who served almost three dozen years in Congress including 10 as the House majority leader before one term as the speaker. Wright made history in 1989 as the first U.S. House speaker to ever resign in the midst of an ethics investigation.

more to come ...


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