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Mike Collier: The TT Interview

The retired businessman, a Democratic candidate for comptroller, on what prompted him to run, his thoughts on the current comptroller's performance and the impact of state Sen. Wendy Davis.

State Comptroller candidate Mike Collier

Nearly as soon as state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, ended her June filibuster, Democrats began talking about her as a 2014 gubernatorial candidate and who should join her at the top of the ticket. Retired businessman Mike Collier is the first to volunteer. After months of exploring a bid, he plans to kick off his campaign for comptroller on Monday. The first-time candidate said he hopes to appeal to Democrats and Republicans while doing what he can to boost Davis’ bid for governor.

Collier, 52, was, until earlier this year, chief financial officer of Houston-based Layline Petroleum. Though he has supported Republicans in the past, he said he now views the Republican Party as too extreme. After Davis’ filibuster, Collier said his interest in running for statewide office increased as he considered becoming part of a broader Democratic ticket led by Davis.

“I have just been working under the assumption all along that she would run,” Collier said.

Three Republicans — state Rep. Harvey Hilderbran of Kerrville, state Sen. Glenn Hegar of Katy and former state Rep. Raul Torres — have launched campaigns to succeed outgoing Comptroller Susan Combs. Debra Medina, who ran for governor in 2010, could also join the race.

The following is an edited and condensed transcript of the interview.

TT: What made you decide to run for comptroller?

Collier: My résumé and experience and education is tailor-made for this job. And to have a Democrat holding the Republican Legislature accountable would be a very worthwhile experience. I should also say that I had already concluded that if I were to go into politics, I couldn’t be a Republican.

TT: How long have you considered yourself a Democrat?

Collier: I’ve voted in every election I can recall. I’ve voted for a lot of Republicans, and I've voted for a lot of Democrats. I’ve only voted in one primary, for the [2012] presidential election. I voted against everybody but Mitt Romney. He was the businessman. The rest I had no time for.

[Republicans] have gotten more and more extreme, especially on the social issues. Ultimately, there’s no way I can be a Republican. I’m pro-choice. I support gay marriage. And I think we need immigration reform. So I can stop right there. With those three views, I could not be a Republican.

TT: What are your thoughts on how Susan Combs has performed as comptroller?

Collier: She is a Republican and a former legislator, and I think she just went with the flow. I don’t think she was a dynamic, forceful, impactful, objective executive. She did not play the watchdog role. The comptroller that I was most impressed with was [Democrat] John Sharp. That’s who I compare comptrollers against. I thought he was very dynamic, very effective, very innovative, ran these performance reviews that I thought were a very good thing. I’d like to bring these back.

TT: Wendy Davis recently criticized Combs’ 2011 revenue estimate, which turned out to be billions of dollars off. Combs has said the estimate was based on the information she had at the time in the middle of a recession. What are your thoughts?

Collier: I think it was a huge miss, and I don’t think it shows competence in terms of forecasting. I question if she was talking to anybody in the business community when she made that forecast. I know in 2011, I was very optimistic of what was going to happen in 2012 and 2013. People were investing. … Whether it was politically motivated or not, I’ll never know.

TT: How has Wendy Davis impacted your decision to run for comptroller?

Collier: In the sense she’s trying to stand up to a Republican-controlled Legislature, I applaud that, and I’m running for comptroller for the same reason. I also think if you’re a down-ballot candidate, you want a strong gubernatorial candidate, and I think she is a strong gubernatorial candidate.

We do need to have a two-party state, and we will one day have a two-party state and that’s inevitable. … A two-party state is always very, very good for everyone. The reason why it’s good for everyone is you have people who challenge everybody’s thinking. What I’m going to do as comptroller is challenge thinking, which is very valuable. The question is, is this going to be the cycle? I wouldn’t be running if I didn’t think we could do it.

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