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.
Williams says the runup a year ago — when people thought Kay Bailey Hutchison would resign to run for governor — the "false start."
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.
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.
"The over-arching thing, in my mind, is liberty... expanding the cause of individual freedom and individual liberty."
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."
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.
"If money was an advantage, your New York Yankees, with all due respect, would have beat my Texas Rangers."
Williams says, after that, that he will have the money to run a competitive race for Senate.
He says they will be competing, to some extent, for the same voters. And he says there are differences in experience.
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.
Williams says he's in sync with the Tea folk.
He says he didn't watch President Obama's State of the Union speech.
Williams says he would get rid of Amtrak. "Without a doubt."
He's for health care that "is consumer and patient-oriented."
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.
"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."
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.
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.
Williams: $7 million or $8 million to win a primary, and we'll go on from there.
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.
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.
I am one that has not accepted the notion that we humans are adversely affecting the climate.
Williams: You can put it down and you can underline it.
"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.
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