Texas Republicans will decide next week who their nominee for Texas General Land Office commissioner will be: either Trump-endorsed nominee Dawn Buckingham or GOP historian Tim Westley.
The winner of the May 24 runoff will be one step closer to leading the agency responsible for managing the state’s 13 million acres of land, as well as distributing disaster relief and aid. assistance to state veterans.
Since 2015, the post has been held by Republican George P. Bush. But that will soon change now that he’s running for Texas Attorney General.
Whoever wins will face the winner of the Democratic runoff between Jay Kleberg and Sandragrace Martinez in November. (Learn more about the Democrats running for Lands Commissioner.)
The Republican race favorite is Buckingham. She is currently a state senator from Lakeway, outside of Austin. In March eight-person Republican primaryBuckingham was the clear leader, getting around 42% of the vote.
She also won big endorsements, including the coveted backing of former President Donald Trump.
His campaign website prominently states that she is a proven conservative: anti-abortion and someone who has stood up for border security.
The Texas Newsroom made several interview requests with Buckingham’s campaign, but was never made available for this story. In a February interview with the conservative outlet Texas Scorecard, Buckingham explained how she views the position of land commissioner.
“The Land Office is literally the tip of the spear in defending our border with state lands that are on the border, our history and oil and gas against what the liberal left is trying to do,” Buckingham said.
During the campaign, she staged several stops with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick where they pushed back against lifting the Biden administration. Title 42 — a policy that allows for the immediate deportation of asylum seekers and other migrants at the southern border for public health reasons.
In her interview with the Texas Scorecard, she said she would do whatever needs to be done to prevent migrants from crossing the border illegally. But Buckingham has not been specific in terms of policies.
When asked how the agency can improve disaster recovery, she replied, “There have been a lot of articles about how we probably have a lot of room to improve in our hurricane recovery. So we’re going to look at that very seriously.
The way the General Land Office under Bush handled disaster recovery has been a sticking point between Democrats and Republicans.
Last year, the agency announced that the City of Houston and Harris County were not included in the first round of federal relief funding related to Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts. The agency later reversed its decision.
Disaster recovery is one of the things Buckingham challenger Tim Westley specifically wants to address.
“It’s not good when we have an example of Hurricane Harvey hitting and we have people still reeling from it years later,” Westley told The Texas Newsroom. “One of my goals — immediate goals — is to make sure we have liaisons in every place in Texas where people can reach them.”
Westley is the historian of the Republican Party of Texas. He said his background as a historian and veteran motivated him to run.
In the March Republican primaries, Westley secured second place with just 15% of the vote.
Westley said he wanted to use the land commissioner role to help preserve history statewide. One of the examples he gave was the Alamo Cenotaph in San Antonio.
Also known as the Spirit of Sacrifice, the Alamo Cenotaph is a monument located near the front of the Alamo in San Antonio to honor those who fought in the Battle of the Alamo.
During his tenure as Lands Commissioner, George P. Bush came under fire for wanting to redevelop the site and proposing to move the cenotaph due to its deteriorating state.
But for Westley, the monument must remain.
“Love him or hate him, it’s still history,” Westley said. “If we don’t protect history, it’s easy to rewrite and that’s not what we want.”
Buckingham told the Texas Scorecard that she wouldn’t be moving the Cenotaph either.
Westley campaigned quietly, making more specific plans on how to deal with issues within the jurisdiction of the General Land Office.
Unlike Buckingham, he hasn’t talked much about securing the border or being pro-life.
“I deal with these issues but … there is no direct impact that the land commissioner’s office has on these,” Westley said. “Am I pro-life? Absolutely, I am pro-life. That being said, these issues will be more on the legislative side. It is a management position. »