By Michael Sudhalter
With the decline in crude oil, Fort Bend County businessman Gary Gates says that the Texas Railroad Commission needs a commissioner with sound business experience.
The three-person commission has nothing to do with the railroad. It’s function is to regulate the Oil & Gas Industry in Texas.
“The Railroad Commission needs a business owner – someone with a business acumen,” Gates said. “Eighty-five percent of the Railroad Commission is funded by the industry itself, and revenue has dropped dramatically. None of the other candidates have business acumen.”
One constituency, albeit a small one, that Gates may have trouble winning will be Railroad Commission employees and their families.
If elected, he plans on decreasing the agency in size and eliminating between 10-to-20 percent of the Commission’s 750 employees.
“Oil companies are cutting, so should they,” Gates said.
Gates, who lives with his family on a cattle ranch north of Richmond, started investing in real estate when he was 19 years old. He now owns more than 4,000 multi-family units and has 300 employees, including eight of his children.
Gates and his wife, Melissa, have 13 children, including 11 they have adopted over the years.
Gates, who identifies as a “Conservative Republican” and considers himself the most conservative candidate in the March 1 GOP Primary, is the only Fort Bend candidate running for a seat on Railroad Commission.
This isn’t the first time in recent history that a Fort Bend resident ran for Railroad Commission. In November 2014, Missouri City resident Steve Brown, a Democrat, lost to Ryan Sitton, a Friendswood Republican, for a seat on the Railroad Commission.
Gates will face six opponents in the GOP Primary, and if no candidate reaches more than 50 percent, there will be a runoff of the top two in May.
His opponents include former East Texas state representative Wayne Christian, (who lost a runoff election to Sitton last spring), Austin attorney John Greytok, Cypress engineer Ron Hale, San Antonio water supplier Weston Martinez, U.S. Air Force veteran Doug Jeffrey of Vernon and Lance Christian of Austin, a Geologist with the Railroad Commission.
The primary winner will be the clear favorite in the November election to replace current commissioner David Porter against former Fort Worth State Rep. Lon Burnam, former Austin journalist Cody Garrett or retired San Antonio educator Grady Yarbrough.
Gates may be a newcomer to state-wide politics, but he’s no stranger to Fort Bend voters.
He’s run unsuccessfully six times – twice each for Lamar CISD school board, state representative and state senator.
“It’s just in my make-up to keep trying,” said Gates, who started the conservative group, Texas Citizens Coalition (TCC)
Through TCC and active participation in State GOP politics, Gates has picked up the endorsements of 12 state legislators, including Fort Bend GOP representatives Rick Miller, Phil Stephenson and John Zerwas.
Gates doesn’t have any experience working in Oil & Gas, but he said many of his investments are in that sector.
He is running on a platform of protecting property owners and protecting Texas from federal over-reach and “improving agency effectiveness, accountability and agility. “I’m not talking about taking down government – government has a very important purpose,” Gates said. “But the nature of bureaucracy is that it causes organizations to not be able to operate effectively. And that makes it counterproductive.”