Wayne Christian heads to runoff against Sarah Stogner

By the slimmest of margins, Texas Railroad Commission (RRC) Chairman Wayne Christian was forced into a runoff in his re-election bid. Sarah Stogner will take on Christian for the position.

Stogner, an oil and gas attorney, gained national attention for her under-the-radar bid when she posted a video of herself naked and riding an oil pumpjack for the start of early voting.

As of the unofficial results, Stogner was only 12,769 votes above Tom Slocum, a member of Houston’s well-known Slocum oil family.

She was then endorsed by the challengers who did not make the runoff, both Slocum and Tipton voiced their support for Stogner.

Stogner’s runoff qualify was a surprise, but the biggest surprise of the night in the Railroad Commission race was that Sarge Summers, who tragically passed away last month, pulled in double digits. Engineer Dawayne Tipton is currently bringing up the rear.

Christian first took office on the state’s oil and gas industry-regulating agency in 2016 after an unsuccessful bid against former Commissioner Ryan Sitton two years earlier. Before then, he had served about a dozen non-consecutive years in the Texas House — with two years off in 2004 after trying and failing to unseat Congressman Louie Gohmert in the 1st Congressional District.

“A runoff was always a likely scenario, every Railroad Commission race with more than three candidates has gone to a runoff in the last thirty years,” Christian campaign spokesman Travis McCormick said once the results became clear.

“The choice in May couldn’t be clearer: a pro-oil and gas businessman endorsed by virtually every conservative watchdog group and industry trade association, or a liberal lawyer that will increase regulations on the oil and gas industry and embarrass the Republican Party with her pro-choice and anti-Second Amendment positions.”

The incumbent has been criticized by his primary opponents for taking campaign dollars from the oil and gas industry, which the RRC regulates. Christian has outraised and outspent multiple times over his primary opponents, who each ran a relatively low budget campaign.

Historically, the RRC has seen more than its fair share of oddities. Two years ago, political upstart Jim Wright upset Sitton in a head-to-head primary — winning overwhelmingly while getting outspent substantially.

Texas’ prolific oil and gas industry is the driving force behind the energy renaissance and the economic prosperity it has ushered in. The RRC considers permits for oil and gas drilling, disposal, and transportation sites.

The agency’s outdated name, an ode to its purview of old, just adds to the oddities that often come home to roost at the ballot box. Statewide incumbents who are pushed to runoffs do not have a flawless track record of victory. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

But Christian hopes to avoid the upset and repeat the general election success his two colleagues have delivered the last two cycles. Stogner, meanwhile, hopes to emulate Wright’s shocking upset two years ago. 

The runoff is set for May 24 and the winner will face Democrat Luke Warford in November.

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