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Sarah Stogner announces second campaign for the Texas Railroad Commission


Sarah Stogner announces second campaign for the Texas Railroad Commission

Sep 23, 2023 | 2:07 pm ET
By Maia Pandey
Sarah Stogner announces second campaign for the Texas Railroad Commission
Sarah Stogner announced another run for the Texas Railroad Commission — this time as a member of the newly-formed Texas Forward Party — during Open Congress at the Texas Tribune Festival on Saturday. (Julius Shieh/The Texas Tribune)

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Sarah Stogner announced Saturday at The Texas Tribune Festival that she is mounting her second campaign for the Texas Railroad Commission — this time, leaving the Republican Party to run as a third-party candidate.

Stogner, a 39-year-old oil and gas attorney, made headlines in 2022 with a campaign announcement video that featured her semi-nude on top of an oil pumpjack. Her underdog campaign picked up enough momentum — and a $2 million donation from a West Texas rancher — to propel Stogner into a Republican runoff with incumbent Wayne Christian.

Christian, who Stogner accused of corruption during the campaign, won that race with 65% of the vote. In the general election, Stogner endorsed Democratic nominee Luke Warford, who Christian defeated with more than 55% of the vote.

On Saturday Stogner said she plans to run under the banner of the Forward Party, a centrist political party co-founded by former presidential candidate Andrew Yang. Stogner is the first announced statewide candidate aligned with the party.

Corruption within the Texas GOP led her to join the Forward Party, Stogner said.

“I posted on social media about the acquittal of [Texas Attorney General] Ken Paxton. Since I called out the corruption, some people responded that I must be a Democrat,” Stogner said. “How sad is that? Like, there’s nothing conservative about corruption.”

New political parties need a certain number of qualified voters’ signatures to qualify for inclusion on a Texas ballot. If she makes the ballot, Stogner will challenge current Railroad Commission Chair Christi Craddick next fall. Members of the three-person commission serve staggered, six-year terms, the longest term of any statewide elected position.

Established in 1891, the Railroad Commission is the state’s oldest regulatory agency and employs more than 800 people. The commission regulates oil and gas drilling permits, surface mining, natural gas utilities and oil and gas pipelines — as well as ensuring companies abide by state and federal policy on safety and pollution.

However, Stogner said the Commission is falling short of these goals, and accused her opponent of having a conflict of interest. Craddick and her family have financial ties to the oil and gas industry, owning land that has generated revenue from natural gas.

“The commission has one mission — to regulate energy in a way that keeps Texans safe,” Stogner said. “But Commissioner Christi Craddick is overseeing it while also profiting off of oil deals. She’s pocketing money from the very people she’s supposed to be regulating.”

Stogner, who said she lives in “the center of the oil and gas hub of the Permian Basin,” emphasized her non-political background and oil and gas knowledge as a lawyer. If elected, Stogner said, she would not seek to issue new regulations, but rather ensure the existing ones are “fair, affordable, and actually work.”

Stogner added that her community in Crane County is struggling with contaminated groundwater and poor air quality on a daily basis.

“I say to people all over the state, ‘When you turn on the tap, are you sure what's coming out? Are you sure that your water’s safe?’ ” Stogner said. “What do we do when the people that we’ve elected to regulate and oversee are bought and paid for by the people that they're supposed to be regulating?”

As The Texas Tribune's signature event of the year, The Texas Tribune Festival brings Texans closer to politics, policy and the day’s news from Texas and beyond. Browse on-demand recordings and catch up on the biggest headlines from Festival events at the Tribune’s Festival news page.