Nov 4, 2022 - News

The race to become the next Texas land commissioner

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

An eye surgeon endorsed by former President Trump and a wealthy conservationist are vying to become the new Texas land commissioner.

  • The Republican candidate is Dawn Buckingham, a state senator from Lakeway. The Democratic candidate is Jay Kleberg, former associate director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation. His family owns the King Ranch.

Why it matters: The land commissioner oversees the Texas General Land Office (GLO), which manages public land and beaches, administers natural disaster relief funding, helps fund public education and maintains the Alamo.

  • The land commissioner also chairs the Veterans Land Board, which oversees nine veterans homes and four veterans cemeteries.

Context: The GLO is the oldest public agency in the state.

man in cowboy hat
Democratic candidate Jay Kleberg. Photo courtesy of the Kleberg campaign

State of play: The seat is open after incumbent George P. Bush ran for attorney general instead. Bush lost in the GOP primary in May.

The big picture: While no Texas Democrat has won statewide office since 1994, Kleberg has spent roughly twice as much as Buckingham, per campaign filings from the end of October.

  • He's spent nearly $1.4 million and she's spent nearly $700,000.

Yes, but: In the May primary, roughly 115,000 more people voted for Buckingham than voted in the Democratic runoff altogether.

  • And heading into the final turn, she had $500,000 on hand to his $125,000, per the end-of-October filing.
woman wearing a cowboy hat
Republican candidate Dawn Buckingham. Photo: Courtesy of the Buckingham campaign

The intrigue: The two candidates have campaigned in very different ways. Kleberg went on a 10-stop campaign tour of dance halls in deeply red parts of the state. Buckingham participated in what she called a "guns to gowns" tour, according to her Instagram.

What they're saying: "I think that what we're trying to do is get back to a place where Texans elect people based on their experience and their qualifications and their being fit for service," Kleberg told the Texas Tribune last month.

The other side: The GLO oversees veterans nursing homes, which Buckingham told WFAA is "right up my alley as a physician." She added: "People come to me with their problems, and we fix their problems."

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