AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Friday marks the last day of early voting before the May 24 runoff election, where several statewide races for both parties will be on the ticket.
One race that is drawing unusual attention is the state’s Railroad Commission. Despite the name, the three members on the commission have nothing to do with railroads and everything to do with regulating the state’s oil and gas.
14-year oil and gas attorney Sarah Stogner pushed incumbent Wayne Christian into a runoff after the March 1 primary.
Stogner will admit, her profile and name recognition definitely increased after a video of her went viral in February, featuring her semi-nude riding a pump jack.
“It was really meant to be ‘tongue in cheek’ and funny and grab attention,” she explained.
Stogner used the video on her social media channels with her campaign logo over it, but said the video was originally part of a documentary — not for campaign purposes.
“It’s not prim and proper. So yes, the pearl-clutching traditional GOP has been a little bit not happy with it, I would say. But it served its purpose. I got everyone’s attention,” she said. “And now we’re actually talking about the issues. So I needed something. And when you don’t have money, you have to get people’s attention.”
Her campaign has been built upon mostly grassroots organization and social media outreach. It also started originally with a pledge to not take any campaign contributions. That changed the week early voting kicked off.
Christian has railed against Stogner for taking a nearly $2 million donation after her earlier assertions to refuse contributions.
Over the last month, we’ve reached out to Christian’s campaign for an interview. While he declined, he did send recorded statements.
“It is the height of hypocrisy for Sarah Stogner to criticize me for taking a contribution from someone who recently had business before the Railroad Commission,” he said in audio sent to KXAN.
Stogner said it was a difficult decision accepting the money, which was given to her by a wealthy West Texas rancher and friend, Ashley Watt. Stogner said Watt told her to “get her ego out of the way” and accept the money in order to blast out television ads in the final week before the runoff.
“I wanted to give it my all and do my best, and I didn’t want to wonder ‘what if,’ if I had lost and not taken the money, then what good does that do?” she said.
Stogner wants to “bring transparency, so that those with the subject matter expertise have access to the information to help us fix these issues,” she said. “We need to make sure that we’re able to continue producing oil and natural gas in Texas and prevent federal intervention.”
In his audio, Christian said he’s “the only candidate in this race with a proven record of fighting back against the radical Biden administration and standing up for American energy independence.”
If you did not vote in the primary election, you can vote in the runoffs on either the Republican or Democratic ballot, but not both.