Texas Railroad Commissioner Hopefuls Trade Barbs Ahead of Runoff

Texas Railroad Commissioner Hopefuls Trade Barbs Ahead of Runoff

As the primary runoff elections loom on the horizon, attacks from candidates seem to be getting nastier.  In the race for the Texas Railroad Commission, candidate Ryan Sitton has decided to respond publicly to what he calls unfounded charges his opponent, Wayne Christian, has been making in the race. 

Sitton, alongside his wife, Jennifer, founded an oil and gas related company in Friendswood, Texas, PinnacleAIS.  Christian has claimed that Sitton’s ownership of that company would amount to a conflict of interest were he to be elected to the Railroad Commission.

In response, Sitton published a press release announcing his plans to distance himself from the company he founded, should he be elected, in order to avoid any appearance of potential for conflict of interest. 

“I am going to be a full-time Railroad Commissioner,” Sitton said, “and I will step away from any role at my company, Pinnacle, which does no business before the Railroad Commission and has never been involved with a client on a commission issue.”

Sitton stated his research shows that in not one single case in the last several years would I have been required to recuse himself.  “However,” Sitton explained, “due to the Obama-like tactics employed by my opponent, I feel the need to remove any questions about my motives.  Therefore, I am going to go beyond what is required by the statutes.  When I am elected to the Railroad Commission, I will place the company my wife and I have built from the ground up into a blind trust, and step down as the CEO.”

Former Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones came to Sitton’s defense. 

“It is very exciting that someone like Ryan is willing to put his business interests aside and serve as our railroad commissioner,” Jones said in a statement. “Unfortunately, his opponent has lifted a tactic from the same playbook used by Obama and the rest of the liberal elite – namely trying to make someone’s technical expertise and business success sound like a liability.”

Christian, according to a Texas Tribune report earlier in April, said, “Siding with the client benefits his business. Deciding against the client has the potential to harm his business and the jobs of all the people who work for PinnacleAIS.”  Jones responded that these accusations are an “attempt to tarnish a successful entrepreneur who is a great conservative success story.”

Sitton responded by stating of Christian has his own historical apparent conflicts of interest while serving as a State Representative.  The Texas Tribune expounded on this by reporting, “In 2009, for example, Christian unveiled draft regulations that would allow more public entities to invest in annuities. At that time, Christian was working for Woodbury Financial Services Inc., a subsidiary of Connecticut insurance company The Hartford at the time (Christian remains an agent for the company).”  Christian acknowledged that his legislation could “certainly” benefit his company but that that was not the purpose of the changes to the regulations. He stated, in a 2009 Austin American-Statesman article “It’s to give smaller [governments] another tool for investing.”

In that same session, Christian signed on to an amendment that would have loosened restrictions on the Texas Open Beaches Act which would have allowed him to rebuild his home on Bolivar Peninsula that was damaged by Hurricane Ike in 2008. The Dallas Morning News reported that Christian denied any wrongdoing related to his vote on the matter.

Christian led Sitton by 12 percentage points coming out of the March 4th Primary election where a total of four candidates were in the race.  One of those former opponents, Becky Berger, endorsed Sitton stating, “Ryan is the only one left in the race that actually and daily interacts with and works in the Oil & Gas industry.”

Early voting for the May 27th Runoff Election begins on May 19th and runs through the 23rd according to the Texas Secretary of State’s website

This article has been updated, two names were reversed in a sentence.

Follow Bob Price on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX

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