The Agriculture Commissioner is one of the most respected and powerful posts in the State, a steward of all things related to food, as well as a few other miscellaneous duties involving gas pumps and other odds and ends. For years, the Texas Farm Bureau has played kingmaker for this post, not only when Democrats carried the day in Texas, but for the past two decades of uninterrupted Republican rule. This year, they endorsed J. Allen Carnes in the Republican primary, something we later did too. For all our efforts, Carnes came in dead last, and a runoff election has now emerged between Sid Miller and Tommy Merritt, two former State Representatives from the rural portion of the State.
The two men have somewhat similar stories, in that their service in the Legislature often consisted of right-wing grandstanding, and that they were both ultimately defeated for re-nomination in the 2012 Republican primary. Merritt was defeated by the more conservative David Simpson, who has since become a stalwart of Tea Party causes in the legislative. Miller, for his part, was defeated by J.D. Sheffield on account of allegedly neglecting the needs of his home constituency. Both men are lacking in the Agricultural credentials, to say the least, although the same thing could be said ten times over on the other side of the aisle.
Miller has continuously done things that has rubbed us the wrong way. He tapped the always controversial Ted Nugent as his campaign treasurer and has a frightening track record of cruelty to animals, horses in particular. Perhaps most seriously, he talks about far-right causes such as abortion and Obama-hatred rather than focusing upon the actual issues in the race at any chance he can get. Admittedly, when given the chance to explain why he keeps bringing up these issues, Miller offers a satisfiable explanation: that whether or not one is pro-life is indicative of what type of person they are, which is of importance in any office. We humbly disagree with the litmus-test type assessment, but think the point is well taken nonetheless.
However, we think that both Merritt’s nominally more reasonable tone on these issues, as well as his unique experience in water issues, would be invaluable additions to the Agriculture Commissioner’s office. Indeed, Merritt’s start in politics occurred 24 years ago when then-Governor Bill Clements appointed him to the Sabine River Authority. In precarious times such of these, the post of Agriculture Commissioner simply needs someone who will competently help to organize a plan for conversing our precious water resources.
Further, we believe that this need only exemplifies why an individual less susceptible to radical Tea Party influence. If a significant chunk of the Republican electorate suddenly convinced themselves that initiatives such as Prop 6 –the invaluable ballot measure that invested billions into water infrastructure– were tyrannous tax hikes, we think, of these two, only Merritt could confront such dangerous rhetoric.
Accordingly, we endorse Tommy Merritt in the Republican primary for Agriculture Commissioner.
The Texpatriate Editorial Board is comprised of Noah M. Horwitz & Olivia Arena of Austin, Sophia Arena of Houston, George Bailey of Boston and Andrew Scott Romo of New Orleans. Editorials represent a majority view of the board.