Vol 33, Issue 16 Print Issue

Inside Intelligence: About Those Troubled Statewide Officials...

For this week’s nonscientific survey of insiders in government and politics, we asked about those two embattled statewide elected officials — Ken Paxton and Sid Miller.

News coverage of the attorney general and the agriculture commissioner has been unrelenting in recent months, leading us to begin this week's survey by asking the insiders whether the men would survive their first terms in statewide office.

More than 40 percent said neither one would make it through their terms with another three in 10 saying they both would survive to the end of their terms in office. Another 18 percent said Miller would make it while 7 percent thought that Paxton would make it.

We pivoted then to transition plans should one or both men leave office early. When asked what Gov. Greg Abbott would do with a vacancy at attorney general, the insiders were evenly split between thinking Abbott would appoint a Supreme Court justice (37 percent) or that he would turn to an attorney in his shop (34 percent)

Another 8 percent thought he'd look at a former candidate for AG.


On what Abbott might do with a vacancy at agriculture commissioner, four in five of the insiders thought someone from outside the agency would get the appointment with another 10 percent looking for a previous candidate for ag commissioner to get the call.

Interestingly, no one thought that someone within the agency would be in line for a promotion to lead the agency.

Finally, we asked if the state would be better off with fewer elected heads of executive department. More than 60 percent said they didn't think that would be a good idea.

We collected comments along the way, and a full set of those is attached. Here’s a sampling:


Who survives his first term as a statewide official?

• "There is plenty of reason for each of them to leave. The question is, who makes them do it?"

• "Paxton will survive, as the charges are unrelated to his official capacity. Miller misused government property (surprising nobody), and I think those charges will be forthcoming."

• "Both will be pressured to step down. The 'pressure' will come from tea party elites."


• "But survival just means you are still breathing. It does not mean you are well."

• "The wheels are turning too slowly on both these things cause a big blow-up anytime soon, particularly when the public doesn't really care. The public saw with Rick Perry that these so-called legal problems are often just political attacks — so rightly or wrongly, these two stories are largely media driven."


If there were a vacancy at attorney general, where would Greg Abbott look for a successor?

• "He will appoint someone from his staff or previous staff. If he was smart, he would appoint Dan Branch!!!"

• "Dan Patrick's son is looking a lot like Paxton's successor."

• "Appointing a SCOTX justice creates another vacancy for him to fill, so that's the smart move. It's a two-fer!"

• "Gov. Abbott has done a good job of attracting good people (e.g. Tryon Lewis as Chair of TxDOT) to join government, and he would be able to attract a top lawyer to do this for Texas."

• "Eva Guzman — top of the list. Would be absolutely nuts for Abbott to appoint a white guy off the court or from his own shop."

• "Former Supreme Court Justice Harriett O'Neill, a steady hand is needed."


If there were a vacancy at agriculture commissioner, where would Abbott look for a successor?

• "More than likely a current state representative who has a strong interest."

• "Rick Perry is currently job hunting."

• "Picking someone at random off Lavaca Street would be an improvement."

• "Here's a novel idea: find someone who actually does agriculture. Make it a real commissioner of agriculture!"

• "Ag commissioner would be a sweet payback for a favored supporter. And there would be no shortage of applicants."

• "Not sure on this one, but J. Carnes would be a good choice."


Would the state be better off if voters directly elected fewer heads of executive departments, such as the ag commissioner, the comptroller or railroad commissioners?

• "Look at the history of key agency appointees — seems voters do a better job overall than has occurred through cronyism."

• "Having an independent comptroller has been good for the state. I'm saying this even though the incentive for an independent comptroller is to be unduly conservative in revenue estimates, which squeezes the already undersized state budget unnecessarily. It's like having an independent Federal Reserve."

• "Tough to know — appointments are just as partisan as elections. That said, today's elections are won by those who pander to the far reaches of their party, make outlandish comments that are either racist or sexist, and don't offer real solutions to serious problems facing our country and state."

• "The voters are the ultimate equalizers. They may make a mistake, but they usually correct it next time around."

• "We should actually elect more, including the insurance commissioner."

Our thanks to this week's participants: Gene Acuna, Cathie Adams, Brandon Aghamalian, Clyde Alexander, Jay Arnold, Charles Bailey, Andrew Biar, Allen Blakemore, Tom Blanton, Chris Britton, Blaine Bull, Raif Calvert, Lydia Camarillo, Kerry Cammack, Harold Cook, Curtis Culwell, Denise Davis, June Deadrick, Nora Del Bosque, Glenn Deshields, Tom Duffy, David Dunn, Richard Dyer, Jack Erskine, John Esparza, Tom Forbes, Dominic Giarratani, Bruce Gibson, Stephanie Gibson, Eric Glenn, Kinnan Golemon, Daniel Gonzalez, John Greytok, Clint Hackney, Wayne Hamilton, Bill Hammond, Deborah Ingersoll, Mark Jones, Walt Jordan, Robert Kepple, Richard Khouri, Tom Kleinworth, Dale Laine, Pete Laney, Dick Lavine, James LeBas, Luke Legate, Ruben Longoria, Vilma Luna, Matt Mackowiak, Jason McElvaney, Steve Minick, Bee Moorhead, Mike Moses, Nelson Nease, Todd Olsen, Nef Partida, Gardner Pate, Jerod Patterson, Robert Peeler, Jerry Philips, Tom Phillips, Wayne Pierce, Allen Place, Gary Polland, Jay Pritchard, Jay Propes, Patrick Reinhart, David Reynolds, Chuck Rice, Carl Richie, A.J. Rodriguez, Kim Ross, Jeff Rotkoff, Grant Ruckel, Tyler Ruud, Andy Sansom, Barbara Schlief, Stan Schlueter, Robert Scott, Ben Sebree, Christopher Shields, Ed Small, Martha Smiley, Larry Soward, Leonard Spearman, Dennis Speight, Colin Strother, Sherry Sylvester, Trey Trainor, Vicki Truitt, David White, Darren Whitehurst, Seth Winick, Peck Young, Angelo Zottarelli.