Texans are getting lots of campaign mail from Gary Gates. Who is he? He’s a Houston businessman who lost each of the six times he’s run for public office. He promotes liberal Republicans. And he hopes voters are too stupid to know what the Railroad Commission does.
Most Texans were first introduced to Gary Gates by way of his advocacy on behalf of the liberal lieutenants of House Speaker Joe Straus. Now, Gates is hoping to parlay that notoriety, and his personal fortune, into a seat on the Texas Railroad Commission. He’s more likely to maintain his status as a perennially losing candidate.
Gates made his fortune owning and operating apartment complexes in the Houston area. He first came to public attention during his fight with the state’s Child Protective Services over allegations he and his wife were abusing their children. The Gates prevailed against the charges.
This race will actually be Gates’ seventh run for public office. The first six were expensive and unsuccessful.
His record of losses is complicated. Gates first sought a seat in the Texas House. He lost. He tried again. And he lost again. He ran for the Texas Senate. And lost. Then he tried again for the Texas Senate. And lost. Along the way, he twice ran for a local school board seat. And he lost both times.
It’s tempting to label such a record as “sad.” But “pathetic” seems more appropriate.
After his most recent defeat for the Texas Senate, in which Gates wildly outspent his opponent, he shifted gears and founded the “Texas Citizens Coalition.” By his own admission, the TCC was launched so lawmakers in Austin would return his phone calls. Gates has admitted that he’s funded his TCC operations himself to the tune of several million dollars.
Those operations have consisted of a glossy mailer sent regularly around the state to Republican primary voters singing the praises of Straus’ lieutenants, and prominently featuring photos of Gates. More precisely, he has allowed his mailer to be a place where Straus’ lieutenants sing their own praises. For example, liberal House Republican Byron Cook, who has worked over the past two sessions to give driver’s permits to illegal aliens, was recently bragging in Gates’ mailer about his purported tough-on-immigration stances.
In each issue, Gates’ mailer has offered a glowing “conservative” review of the House leadership, despite it being led by Democrats and liberal Republicans, and generally ignored the accomplishments of actual conservatives who are fighting for taxpayers.
Whatever the message, each mailer had a singular purpose: building Gary Gates’ name among the Austin establishment by letting them pose as conservatives in his publication.
After a year in operation, Gates’ TCC mailer has taken a hiatus as Gates runs in the crowded open field to replace retiring Railroad Commissioner David Porter. His campaign materials look a lot like the TCC mailers, and Gates’ campaign publicity photographs are the same he used in conjunction with his project supporting the Straus leadership.
Gates has no experience in the oil and gas industry that he seeks to regulate. He just wants so badly to be elected – as evidenced by his six failed runs – to any office.
If the story of a wealthy candidate with sycophantic ties to the Straus leadership team in a crowded statewide race sounds familiar, it should. Last go-round, the Straus crowd had their lawyer, Eric Opiela, run for Agriculture Commissioner. A trust-fund millionaire who typically lives in Austin, Opiela spent more in 2014 than his opponents combined trying to portray himself as a South Texas farmer. The con job failed and, despite spending seven-figures of his family’s money, Opiela didn’t even make the run-off.
Gates is so tied to the Straus regime that he brags about having disgraced Republican State Rep. Jim Keffer of Eastland as a senior advisor to his campaign. Keffer isn’t in the oil and gas business, and was forced to retire this year rather than engage in what observers knew would be a losing bid for re-election.
Gates’ campaign is as absurd as it is disingenuous. Gates has been buying radio time around the state promising that from his post as one of three elected members of the Railroad Commission he’ll somehow keep Syrian refugees out of Texas. Come, again? Does he really think his fellow Texans are that stupid? Apparently.
The challenges before Gates are numerous. After aligning himself with the Austin establishment, he now must convince voters he is actually a conservative. And while he has no apparent qualifications for the office he seeks, Gates’ campaign is being advised by Straus loyalists instead of someone actually knowledgeable on the oil and gas industry.
More than anything, Gates’ own loss-filled electoral track record – built close to home where people know him best – shouldn’t give him much confidence.