Staples Takes a Swing at Combs — for 2014 Race

Commissioner of Agriculture Todd Staples at TribLive on  May 12, 2011.
Commissioner of Agriculture Todd Staples at TribLive on May 12, 2011.

If they run against each other at all, the race is two years away, but Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples took a swipe at Comptroller Susan Combs today with a letter that's apparently designed to undercut her support among Republican activists.

The two officeholders each has been maneuvering for lieutenant governor. That office won't be on the ballot until 2014, but current Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is running for U.S. Senate in 2012, and the seat is expected to be open. Another statewide officeholder, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, says he'll run. Staples has said he's interested and is "exploring" the race. Combs told the Tribune earlier this year that she might run if the seat is open.

In his letter, Staples says Combs hasn't been clear about whether she's running for lieutenant governor or comptroller, talks about data breaches at her agency that exposed personal financial information about state employees, and about her shifting position on abortion rights. He closed by saying he's sent the letter to "all of the Republican groups across the state."  

It's awfully early to be campaigning for a 2014 election, says Reggie Bashur, a political adviser to the comptroller. "Susan has said publicly as well as privately that she is seriously considering running for lieutenant governor. She has not made a decision," Bashur says. "She is also considering a run for reelection as well as for some of the other statewide offices that may be open in two years. We're talking about an election in 2014 and we have a presidential election and a lot of other activities going on before then."

Here's the text of Staples' letter, which was also shared with us:

Dear Susan:

In light of the expected changes in state government, I want to ask you to clarify a few issues.

In January 2007, you called me and said you were running two terms for Comptroller and then would be retiring from public office. You then reiterated your retirement plans in a subsequent meeting we had later that year in your office.

Now, I am told by many of our mutual supporters that you have told them you have definite plans to run for Lieutenant Governor and have solicited their support on your current finance team for that specific purpose.

Others, however, have stated they have joined your reelection finance team because of your current office of Comptroller and there was no mention of you seeking another office.

Obviously, you can seek any office you choose. But to selectively tell one group of donors you are running for Lt. Governor, while asking another group of donors to fund your Comptroller reelection campaign account is blatantly inconsistent and voters deserve better.

Please clarify why your ethics filings currently state you are running for Comptroller, but some of your current solicitations include your statement that you are running for Lt. Governor.

Additionally, are you currently raising campaign funds to pay for legal fees and the damages as a result of the Comptroller office’s data breach exposing 3.5 million Texans to possible identity theft?

I would also like for you to clarify your position of being pro-choice and your support of sustaining Roe vs. Wade. Your pro-choice position is well documented by your quoted comments in several news reports. In fact, it is well known you asked pro-life leaders to not oppose your candidacy for Comptroller because you stated it is a “non-policy office” thus your pro-choice stance and defense of Roe vs. Wade would not be a factor.

Now a spokesperson for you has made statements completely contrary to your past posture defending Roe vs. Wade and your known pro-choice position.

As a lifetime committed pro-life supporter, I welcome anyone in supporting pro-life policy. However, Texas Republicans need to know why after two decades in politics, followed with a desire to serve in a higher office, you have waited until now to change your stance on this issue. So specifically, what is your position now on abortion and do you still favor Roe vs Wade?

Finally, the exposure of personal information of 3.5 million Texans by your office has been well documented. Texas Republicans need to know why those exposed were not notified immediately by your agency? In other words, why did you wait 10 days before this was disclosed? Furthermore, Texas Republicans need to know why you falsely blamed three other agencies for the failures of your office before belatedly accepting responsibility yourself.

Because committed conservatives want to ensure that Texas Republicans have an open and honest forum in which to choose their next Lieutenant Governor, I hope you will answer these questions fully and completely in the name of honesty and transparency.

I have sent a copy of this letter to all of the Republican groups across the state as I believe they too deserve answers to these critical questions.

I look forward to your clarifications.

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