Saturday, March 08, 2008

Who Will You Vote For In The Runoff? Dale Henry or Mark Thompson?


Of all things, every Texas Democratic primary runoff ballot will have the runoff election for the Democratic Party’s nominee for State Railroad Commissioner.


Railroad Commissioner. Oddly enough, well not really, this IS Texas after all, the Railroad Commissioner is less about railroads and more about oil and gas production. It’s one of those historic oddities that while, for instance, in California, all things dealing with petroleum in the state go through the California Division of Oil and Gas, all things dealing with petroleum in Texas go through the Railroad Commission. Like oil and gas production regulations. Like pipelines.

In some areas of the state, this will be the only runoff race on the April 8th election. Mark Thompson failed to get a 50% plus one majority in the primary, so will have to have a face off with 2nd placer Dale Henry.

Now I write about Mark Thompson as if anyone knows who this guy is, but no one I know has ever heard of him. I have not been able to find out why he nearly got the majority vote in the primary. Apparently Mark Thompson is a disabilities rights advocate, a therapist for blind children and an ex-policeman. That, plus a third spot on the Fort Bend County ballot got him over 48% of the vote.

Dale Henry, by contrast, is an old coot who is also a professional petroleum engineer. This is a guy who knows about the job and knows about the laws and regulations. He is very much an insider, having had professional dealings with the Railroad Commission.

Mark Thompson found himself embroiled in Railroad Commission politics when he complained about gas pipeline explosions resulting from faulty pipeline couplings and upon finding that the Railroad Commission’s enforcement letter was not being adhered to by energy companies, forced the Railroad Commission to order the changes be made.

Thompson’s campaign has been all about public advocacy, a corrupt Railroad Commission, and getting a safety issue enforced. Dale Henry’s campaign has been all about public service and a petroleum industry knowledge base.

So how does one vote in this? My thought is that some of Thompson’s success was due to the presidential primary, but that can’t be all of it. It’s possible that the voters who knew him trusted an outsider, a public advocate rather than an insider like Henry.

Or who knows, it could be because he has a long name as it appears on a ballot while the two other names are short. In the end, why a person votes the way they do for Railroad Commissioner eternally eludes me.

That notwithstanding, and despite the fact that I applaud Mark Thompson’s public advocacy, I have this feeling that if he succeeded in outpolling Michael Williams, his would-be Republican opponent in November, Mark Thompson would be a babe in the proverbial woods. Despite his record as a public advocate, which I admire, I question whether he would be able to work with the two other Republican commissioners. Whether he has the knowledge base to stay even with them.

While Dale Henry is very much an insider by comparison, I see no alternative than to advocate for him rather than Mark Thompson.

Now how will it go in April? I suspect very differently than on March 4th. In April you are going to see the die-hard Democrats at the polls, die-hards and activists, not just the some-time primary voters.

Especially if it is like it is going to be here in Fort Bend County, with, in some precincts, only that one race on the Democratic Party’s ballot.

Man, talk about anti-climactic. All I can say is that if Henry can’t pull it off here, something is wrong somewhere.


Anonymous said...

Hal, I found your comments very helpful and using your recommendation, I am voting for Dale Henry.

Anonymous said...

Hal - I'm finding your blog for the first time on APRIL 9TH - and darn it if Texas Democrats haven't suprised the heck out of me!

I've been pointing out some of your exact points to my friends, and to my neighbors, and again at the Brazos County Democratic Party convention in March.

I can't believe nor understand how Texas Democrats would've put a guy with, just as you alluded to, ZERO knowledge about anything to do with this industry. Not the science, not the law, not the business... "NADA"

I'm so sorry, Dale, we've failed you. I'm so angry that I let Wednesday, April 8th, pass me by. Had I to do it over again, I would have driven up and down our streets with Posters and Banners - "GET OUT AND VOTE DEMOCRATS!!! RAILROAD COMMISSIONER = THE FUTURE OF TEXAS' ENVIRONMENT!!!"

How can we, as Democrats, say we want to preserve and protect our environment when we don't support candidates with the experience and knowledge to get the job done??

I saw what I think happened in yesterday's run-off at our county convention with Obama's vs Hillary's. It had to be explained to people that when you're in the same party - you're on the same SIDE!

We've got to go in to run-offs and primaries with some TRUST that we don't hold "insider" Democrats to the same level of scrutiny as we would an insider Republican.... All we should have to do it compare resumes...

I know some would say "How naive" -
but as you pointed out - what good is it when the guy who's left doesn't know how to do the job. I've no doubt that Mark Thompson is a wonderful citizen and advocate - but Railroad commissioner??

Sigh.... I just hope Mark's getting a crash course by the "insiders" to make it thru in November. Lord help us.