RACE TO 270

It is crunch time for this election season as early voting in Texas ends Friday and Election Day is Tuesday. With everything going on, it’s easy to forget that there are more elections than just federal ones.

In Texas, there are several people running for positions within our state government and judicial systems. Instead of dissecting everyone and their platforms, let’s look at the offices and positions and how they play a vital role in our lives.

There are seven main elections that need to be looked at: Texas Railroad Commission, Board of Education, Texas House and Senate, Texas Supreme Court, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the Texas Court of Appeals.

Of the seven, the Railroad Commission and the Board of Education elections are considered executive positions in Texas. The Texas House and Senate are, of course, the legislature offices.

The name Texas Railroad Commission is an executive position in the State of Texas and is also a misnomer. The commission was founded to oversee the rail lines in Texas but ceased operations in the early 2000s, and according to its website, oversee natural gas and oil industry, pipeline and transportation of gas and oil and surface mining for uranium.

This commission of three people controls one of the largest industries in Texas. It controls who gets to drill, where they drill, where a pipeline can go and it a political launching point for a career in politics.

We all know oil is the blood of Texas and gas is the air. You can travel for 10 minutes in any direction outside of Lubbock and see evidence of those industries. Also, not far from Lubbock are the oil towns of Midland and Odessa.

Slowly, the industry that created these towns  that are inching closer to Lubbock. No matter how you feel about it, the topics of oil and natural gas are becoming a daily conversation in our lives. Also, hobnobbing with all the tycoons of the oil and gas industry opens many doors to powerful positions for those on the board.

Not saying that everyone elected to this position ends up with a political career or even continuing with politics but many do end up in positions with great influence. Texas Tech’s own chancellor emeritus, Kent Hance, served on the commission until stepping down in 1991.

The next election voters need to keep an eye on is the Texas State Board of Education as eight of the 15 positions are up for election. One of those seats, District 15, oversees Lubbock County and a big portion of the Panhandle. 

The sole purpose of the board is to oversee the curriculum and teaching materials in Texas’ public elementary, middle and high schools across Texas. For those who have been through the Texas public school system, you might remember the ever-changing requirements to graduate high school and how the teachers complained about the lack of school funding, the board dictates those, too. 

It doesn’t pertain to everyone, but for those who are on their way to becoming teachers, you might want to pay close attention to this election as the board also has the final say in the rules of the State Board for Educator Certification. Everyone else should care as it also is an executive position in the state.

The final elections are the Texas Legislature, the House of Representatives and the State Senate. Just like the one on the federal level, the Texas Legislature controls the laws and bills passed within the state.

The House is comprised of 150 members elected every two years and are called to Austin to sit in session every odd-numbered year. The State Senate is composed of 31 senators who either severe two or four years, depending on if it is a redistricting year, according to the State Legislature website.

Just like the U.S. Congress, representatives and senators bring bills to the floor, votes and discussions happen until the bill is passed by either the House or the Senate. Then the governor will either sign the bill or veto it.

This is the watered-down version of what voters should understand about how the state government impacts your life. 

According to the Secretary of State website on elections, the Republican Party has the trifecta: the governor, state legislature and the Texas Supreme Court. However, there are predictions saying that the House has a chance of switching to the Democrats.

At this time, polls show deep-red Texas becoming more purple and swinging blue this election. Of course, I don’t believe polls this far out, just because of what happened in 2016, but there has always been a chance.

The House has been in control of the Democrats before. If Texas turns blue this year in the presidential election, could the longtime solid red state of Texas see a shift of power within the state government? First the legislature, then what — the Office of the Governor?

If this scares you, go vote. If this excites you, go vote. If you could care less, go vote. Every vote counts. Don’t let your constitutionally-given right go to waste. 

Remember, Texas early voting ends on Oct. 30, and Election Day is on Nov. Let your voice be heard this election year.

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