LiveBlog: Michael Williams at TribLive

Michael Williams
Michael Williams

Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams joined The Texas Tribune's Evan Smith for a TribLive event this morning in Austin. Williams has announced he's leaving the Texas Railroad Commission in April and plans to run for the U.S. Senate in 2012.

Liveblog

by Ross Ramsey
Getting ready to go. Evan is doing introductions and such. Williams is wired for sound. Rob Eissler, chairman of the House Public Education Committee, will be the next TribLive interview (look at the top of our home page for details).
by Ross Ramsey
Williams starts with the headline: He's running for United States Senate (this is the official announcement, mind you — it's been a matter of open conversation for weeks).

Williams says the runup a year ago — when people thought Kay Bailey Hutchison would resign to run for governor — the "false start."
by Ross Ramsey
Williams won't answer the question of whether Hutchison has been a consistent conservative.

And he says "without a doubt" that he would have run for the seat in 2012 whether or not she was in the race (she has said she won't seek reelection.
by Ross Ramsey
He says he would be a "consistent conservative". He's fleshing that out this way: limited government, adherence to principle...
by Ross Ramsey
Evan asks what about the RRC prepares you to be in the Senate.

Williams cites his experience in managing the agency (he's one of three, and has been in office for more than 12 years). And he says the Texas Railroad Commission is a leader in national energy policy.
by Ross Ramsey
"If we don't have sufficient energy, this economy can't grow."

"The over-arching thing, in my mind, is liberty... expanding the cause of individual freedom and individual liberty."
by Ross Ramsey
Now he's after the feds, specifically, the Environmental Protection Agency, which is says "is sticking its nose in our business."

by Ross Ramsey
Now he's talking about clean coal, natural gas, and other energy issues.
by Ross Ramsey
Williams says he was mostly in sync with other commissioners on the RRC. "Most of the time. Most of the time."

Evan asks about reporting from Texas Monthly's Paul Burka about disagreements on the commission, and about his support for a lone commissioner while his two fellow commissioners think there should continue to be three.

With one commissioner, he says, you'll have centralized management and control. With three, he says, in order to make a decision, you have to call an open meeting. "We don't have the nimbleness."
by Ross Ramsey
He says its a good idea to have the Railroad Commissioner — whatever it's called — to be appointed by the governor and then put on the ballot in 2014.
by Ross Ramsey
Now we're to the Senate race. Evan says "The big dog is not in the race." Williams: "I'm in the race. I just announced."

Evan's talking about David Dewhurst and says the lieutenant governor would have the ability to self-finance. Williams disagrees that Dewhurst starts as the front-runner.
by Ross Ramsey
"Message, passion, and connectedness with voters can trump money."

"If money was an advantage, your New York Yankees, with all due respect, would have beat my Texas Rangers."
by Ross Ramsey
"They're looking for someone they trust, someone they feel is like them, and someone they feel will fight for them." He's talking about voters.

Williams says, after that, that he will have the money to run a competitive race for Senate.
by Ross Ramsey
"The message is going to drive dollars... People are going to hear the message and I just have confidence that people are going to respond to it... We will certainly have the money to be competitive and we will certainly have the money to win."
by Ross Ramsey
About Ted Cruz: "Ted is an attractive candidate."

He says they will be competing, to some extent, for the same voters. And he says there are differences in experience.
by Ross Ramsey
Williams won't be drawn into a comparison between himself and Dewhurst.

Evan asks about whether being a black Republican will have an effect on the contest.

Texas didn't reject a black candidate for U.S. Senate (he says, talking about Ron Kirk, who lost to John Cornyn), Texas rejected a Democrat. No Democrat won a statewide election that year.

And he says most people don't care about his race; they're worried about who represents them.
by Ross Ramsey
"I am proud of the fact that I'm black. God made me black."
by Ross Ramsey
"In 12 years as a Railroad Commission ... I've been all over the state. I am extremely thrilled by the reception I get around this state."
by Ross Ramsey
The question is about Jim DeMint, the senator from South Carolina who has annointed other candidates as Tea Party candidates. He's a Williams fan.

Williams says he's in sync with the Tea folk.

He says he didn't watch President Obama's State of the Union speech.
by Ross Ramsey
He says the spending freeze Obama proposed is far short of the cuts proposed by Republicans. "That is a start, but there's a long way to go."

Williams says he would get rid of Amtrak. "Without a doubt."
by Ross Ramsey
He says he would vote for repeal of the federal health care program.

He's for health care that "is consumer and patient-oriented."
by Ross Ramsey
The American people want us to solve problems, he says, answering a question about whether Republicans should work with Democrats or shut them out when they can.

by Ross Ramsey
Evan's done; time for audience questions.
by Ross Ramsey
The question is about energy conservation.

We're going to have natural gas and nuclear. We're going to have to move towards clean coal technology, complemented by wind and solar. And then we're going to have to look to conservation.

But it starts with natural gas, nuclear power, clean coal, complemented by the others.
by Ross Ramsey
You'll never save as much energy as I can produce with the three big ones.
by Ross Ramsey
A question about voter ID and border security.

"I think the voter ID bill is the right thing."

"We want people to come to America... we just want them to come in the right way. You can't be a country that controls terrorism with a border as porous as our southern border."
by Ross Ramsey
It starts with controlling the border. It's not because we don't want people to come into the country. It's because we want them to come in the right way.
by Ross Ramsey
Question: How would you increase equal opportunity?

I think that a focus on individual liberty ... leads to equal opportunity.

Is it opportunity that is result based, or is it that I have the opportunity to succeed.

by Ross Ramsey
Evan: How does that square with opposing racial quotas.

Williams: Youngsters today may come from schools with different levels of teachers, different dollars... but government should never make the determination of opportunity on the basis of bloodlines. ...

My concern about racial preferences is that ... it tells a youngster they can't move forward.
by Ross Ramsey
It's important to have ethnic diversity. But there are different ways to do that.
by Ross Ramsey
We need to be real careful about making distinctions between people based on race.
by Ross Ramsey
Question: How much money do you need to win?

Williams: $7 million or $8 million to win a primary, and we'll go on from there.
by Ross Ramsey
"And that's even if someone else brings $17 to $20 million."
by Ross Ramsey
The question is about his foreign policy views.

Williams: Israel is a strategic and long-term friend. China is a growing and significant player on the global landscape. China has some assets. (people, money, and a sense of national purpose).

They have limits. They don't have our entrepreneurial spirit. They don't have our creative spirit. They don't have our innovative spirit.
by Ross Ramsey
The question is about high speed rail.

If the marketplace is prepared for that kind of demand, then that would make sense. ...

But it's simply because the government says it's a neat thing to do or a bold thing to do, I'm against it.
by Ross Ramsey
The question is about human-caused climate change.

I am one that has not accepted the notion that we humans are adversely affecting the climate.
by Ross Ramsey
Evan: Put you down as not believing in climate change.

Williams: You can put it down and you can underline it.
by Ross Ramsey
Question: Do you see other threats than the federal government to individual liberty, and do you think the government is on our side in those threats.

"It could be on our side in national defense ... in control of the border."

Evan: When did the federal government become our enemies?

Williams: Go back to the framers... They were concerned with an all-powerful government. ... There is a proper role, and beyond that role, it's not a good thing. This has always been sort of a love-hate thing. Always.
by Ross Ramsey
That's it! They're done.

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