TEXAS, USA — You may not know much about the office, but it is the state’s oldest. It impacts all of our lives in some way. And the race for Texas Land Commissioner pits a physician from Austin against an heir to the famed King Ranch.
Republican Dr. Dawn Buckingham became the first woman elected to the Texas State Senate from Travis County in 2016.
And following a major controversy involving federal Hurricane Harvey aid, the Republican says the General Land Office has to get better at one of its core missions: distributing disaster recovery funds.
“The folks down in the Houston area who are five years out of Hurricane Harvey don’t feel like they’ve recovered enough, and whether that’s General Land Office or local issues, we want to be sure that the people who need resources and need help get it. That’s what we’re going to work on,” Buckingham said on Inside Texas Politics.
After Hurricane Harvey ravaged the state in 2017, Congress set aside billions of dollars for disaster preparedness funding in Texas. But once GLO Commissioner George P. Bush, who is leaving the office after his failed bid for Texas Attorney General, distributed some of those dollars, controversy erupted. A federal investigation revealed that not only did the hardest hit communities along the coast receive zero dollars initially, the state plan used to distribute the money was discriminatory.
Buckingham says she would focus on better communication and collaboration with local officials.
The Republican also supports what’s known as the Ike Dike, a coastal barrier that would protect Galveston Bay from storm surge. But it’s expensive, estimated to be north of $30 billion. And five Texas Republicans in the U.S. House voted against the project over the summer.
Buckingham says she wants to be a “positive influence” on the project and even worked on potential funding while a part of the state Senate.
“I was a part of that legislation and a funding mechanism passing in the Senate. I’m glad to be a part of that,” she told us. “We know how incredibly important our coastline is and especially the Houston Ship Channel and the port there. If we ever got a big storm right up the ship channel we would be in a world of hurt. So, we’re excited about that. We’ll look at the different funding mechanisms.”
For those who may not know, here is a quick primer on the Texas General Land Office:
It is the oldest state agency in Texas, established by the Constitution of the Republic of Texas. And it oversees millions of acres of public land, deals with other land-related issues such as developing renewable energy, serves veterans and students (by contributing to public school funding through the Permanent School Fund, PSF). The GLO even has administrative control of the Alamo.
According to our poll “Texas Decides,” a study of likely Texas voters and a joint effort between the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation (THPF) and Tegna Texas stations WFAA, KHOU, KENS and KVUE, Buckingham enjoys an 8% lead over Democrat Jay Kleberg (46% - 38%) among likely voters and 12% among most likely (almost certain) voters (50% - 38%). 2% of likely and 1% of almost certain voters say they’ll support Green Party candidate Alfred Molison.
The election will be held Nov. 8. Early voting starts Oct. 24.