Sign up for The Brief, our daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.
While other elected leaders battle over divisive issues like abortion, LGBTQ rights and gun policy, Republican Glenn Hegar has mostly avoided the drama, keeping a low profile as the state’s chief financial officer for nearly eight years.
But Hegar, 51, who is running for his third term as Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, has made increasingly provocative moves in recent weeks, challenging financial companies he says are anti-oil and gas and threatening budget sanctions against Harris County over law enforcement funding, among other attention-grabbing actions that align with GOP party planks.
The uncharacteristically high-profile moves come as the November election nears. Hegar is seeking reelection against Democrat Janet Dudding, an accountant. The race for comptroller is widely considered to be a low-information race for a powerful position overseeing a state budget that reached $265 billion for the 2022-23 biennium.
Hegar’s campaign said the comptroller is simply doing his job.
Voting FAQ: 2022 midterms
How do I know if I'm registered to vote?
The deadline to register to vote in the 2022 primary election was Oct. 11. Check if you’re registered to vote here.
When can I vote?
Election day is Nov. 8. Early voting ended Nov. 4.
How do I know if I qualify to vote by mail?
This option is fairly limited in Texas. You’re allowed to vote by mail only if: You will be 65 or older by Election Day, you will not be in your county for the entire span of voting, including early voting, you cite a sickness or disability that prevents you from voting in person without needing personal assistance or without the likelihood of injuring your health, you’re expected to give birth within three weeks before or after Election Day or you are confined in jail but otherwise eligible (i.e., not convicted of a felony).
Are polling locations the same on election day as they are during early voting?
Not always. You’ll want to check for open polling locations with your local elections office before you head out to vote. Additionally, you can confirm with your county elections office whether election day voting is restricted to locations in your designated precinct or if you can cast a ballot at any polling place.
How can I find which polling places are near me?
County election offices are supposed to post on their websites information on polling locations for Election Day and during the early-voting period by Oct. 18. The secretary of state’s website will also have information on polling locations closer to the start of voting. However, polling locations may change, so be sure to check your county’s election website before going to vote.
What form of ID do I need to bring to vote?
You’ll need one of seven types of valid photo ID to vote in Texas: A state driver’s license, a Texas election identification certificate, a Texas personal identification card, a Texas license to carry a handgun, a U.S. military ID card with a personal photo, a U.S. citizenship certificate with a personal photo or a U.S. passport. Voters can still cast votes without those IDs if they sign a form swearing that they have a “reasonable impediment” from obtaining a proper photo ID or use a provisional ballot. Find more details here.
What can I do if I have trouble voting?
You can contact your county elections official or call the Texas Secretary of State's helpline at 1-800-252-VOTE (8683). A coalition of voting rights groups is also helping voters navigate election concerns through the 866-OUR-VOTE (687-8683) voter-protection helpline. The coalition also has hotlines available in other languages and for Texans with disabilities.
“He is working to continue his record of steady leadership that has shepherded the state’s economy through one of the most challenging periods in recent history,” Hegar’s campaign said in an emailed statement. “The timing of those actions was driven by statutory or procedural duties and deadlines.”
But some who are watching the political landscape in Texas say Hegar, who previously served in the state House and Senate, appears to be shoring up those grassroots — either to head off a weak showing this November, or to burnish his support for a future run at higher office.
Or maybe both.
“He’s sort of kept to himself until all of a sudden, and that tells me that he’s got plans and that he needs to overperform in that upcoming election so that he looks more viable as a candidate for higher office later on,” said Genevieve Van Cleve, who tracks Texas state political moves for the National Democratic Redistricting Committee.
Raising his profile
The comptroller is the state’s chief tax collector, revenue estimator and check writer. Hegar’s most high-profile time, typically, is around the Legislature when he tells lawmakers how much money they’ll be able to spend in the next biennium.
Before he assumed the role of mild-mannered pencil pusher, Hegar was perhaps best known for his role defending his abortion restriction bill a decade ago when he was on the opposite side of Wendy Davis’ famous Senate filibuster.
What you can expect from our elections coverage
How we explain voting
We explain the voting process with election-specific voter guides to help Texans learn what is on the ballot and how to vote. We interview voters, election administrators and election law experts so that we can explain the process, barriers to participation and what happens after the vote is over and the counting begins. Read more here.
How readers inform our work
Instead of letting only politicians set the agenda, we talk to voters and scrutinize polling data to understand ordinary Texans’ top concerns. Our readers’ questions and needs help inform our priorities. We want to hear from readers: What do you better want to understand about the election process in Texas? If local, state or congressional elected officials were to successfully address one issue right now, what would you want it to be? What’s at stake for you this election cycle? If we’re missing something, this is your chance to tell us.
How we hold officials accountable
We do not merely recount what politicians say, but focus on what they do (or fail to do) for the Texans they represent. We aim to provide historical, legal and other kinds of context so readers can understand and engage with an issue. Reporting on efforts that make voting and engaging in our democracy harder is a pillar of our accountability work. Read more here.
How we choose what races to cover
We aren’t able to closely cover all 150 races in the Texas House, 31 in the Texas Senate or 38 for the Texas delegation in the next U.S. House. We need to choose what races we cover closely by using our best judgment of what’s most noteworthy. We take into account factors like power, equity, interest and competitiveness in order to determine what warrants more resources and attention. Read more here.
How we cover misinformation
In reporting on falsehoods and exaggerations, we clearly explain why it is untrue and how it may harm Texans. Sometimes, we choose to not write about misinformation because that can help amplify it. We’re more likely to debunk falsehoods when they are spread by elected officials or used as a justification for policy decisions. Read more here.
Hegar was unavailable to be interviewed for this story, said his campaign spokesperson, who would not comment on whether Hegar plans to seek higher office in 2026 if he wins his November race.
“A lifetime can happen between now and then,” spokesperson Chris Bryan said in an email. “The Comptroller hasn’t been elected to his third term yet. That and ensuring he continues to support those fighting to keep Texas a beacon of freedom and economic prosperity are his campaign priorities.”
Despite the importance of Hegar’s office, it’s hard to get attention in the race during the current political climate of aggression, high emotion and division without speaking directly to the base on issues that grab them, said Hans Klingler, a political consultant who was communications and political director for the Republican Party of Texas when Hegar was in the Legislature.
“The environment rewards the aggressive,” Klingler said. “There is no way for you to just sit and talk about the framework of the comptroller’s office to a Republican grassroots voter. It doesn’t compute. They want red meat.”
Last week, the former Houston-area legislator waded into the “defund the police” debate when he threatened to choke off Harris County’s revenue streams as he accused officials of cutting funding for two constables’ offices. He cited a new state law that bans large cities from reducing budgets for law enforcement in most cases without voter consent.
The county said it had simply stopped allowing departments to roll over unspent budget dollars from the year before but that the budget was still increasing for the departments. County Judge Lina Hidalgo, a Democrat, accused both Hegar and Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of spreading lies.
A day after the threat to Harris County, Hegar banned 10 financial firms from doing business with the state after saying they “boycott” or do not publicly support the oil and gas industry and are therefore subject to state divestment statutes that forbid the state’s investment in those companies.
And the week before that, Hegar stood alongside Texas state Sen. Joan Huffman, a Houston Republican and chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and proclaimed support for removing sales tax from feminine hygiene products — while Republicans nationwide have been under pressure from voters over their stances on women’s health in the wake of the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade.
Hegar’s rhetoric in public has become more pitched as well as he comments on social issues that aren’t always directly related to his office.
On social media and at grassroots events, he has intensified his attacks on President Joe Biden’s immigration policies, bashed student loan forgiveness, supported banning so-called critical race theory in schools, and described expanding broadband access as a way for churches to reach more people.
About two months ago, Hegar said protecting girls’ right to fair competition in school athletics was “a fight worth dying for” — a reference to a new law that bans transgender students from playing on sports teams that are at odds with their sex assigned at birth.
Bryan said Hegar’s stance on school sports and gender is personal because he has two daughters in school athletics and “feels the idea of boys, born biologically male, competing against girls is absolutely absurd.”
The border issue is also personal. Hegar owns land in a Texas-Mexico border county that is often used by undocumented immigrants and smugglers, he has said.
Dudding, who touts her credentials as a certified public accountant with 35 years of state and local governmental experience, recently accused Hegar of “political theater” and says the comptroller is “distracted” by aspirations of higher office.
“The office shouldn’t be partisan at all, and it appears that he is following the directions of the governor and the lieutenant governor, and the other Republican elected officials,” Dudding said.
But Dudding has woven some Democratic politics into her own platform.
Legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana would bring in an estimated $1 billion and save hundreds of millions, she says. Converting methane emissions on state land into energy could save billions in costs caused by climate-related disasters, she argues.
She pushes for Medicaid expansion, wants to address rising taxes and corporate welfare, and supports better pay for teachers.
Hegar touts his work on lowering taxes and expanding broadband in Texas, reforming the tax code, reducing regulations on agriculture and pushing for government transparency.
His campaign site also discusses his belief in religious liberty, his support as a legislator for gun rights and his record on anti-abortion legislation.
According to the Texas Ethics Commission, Dudding has just under $17,000 on hand in her campaign treasury. Hegar has more than $8.5 million.
Hegar’s name has been floated in political circles as a potential future candidate for U.S. Senate or even lieutenant governor, as Dan Patrick has indicated he likely won’t run for reelection in 2026.
But while the comptroller is, observers say, a good testing and training ground for offices like the secretary of state, lieutenant governor or governor, or a job in Washington, D.C., it hasn’t historically been an effective jumping-off point.
Aside from Bob Bullock, a former comptroller who went on to be lieutenant governor, no other Texas comptroller has achieved higher office after holding the position since former state senator and Comptroller Lon Smith made the leap to the Texas Railroad Commission in 1924.
And after 20 years in public office, Hegar is still a stranger to many Texans. A July poll conducted by the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston found that two-thirds of the respondents didn’t know enough about Hegar to form an opinion of him.
“The comptroller’s office as a political lily pad? It’s tough. The Texas political road is strewn with former comptrollers,” Klingler said.
But if Hegar’s recent actions are any indicator, he’s preparing for prime time, observers say.
Election season brings a rare opportunity for Hegar, who is normally looked at to discuss taxes and the economy, to remind the socially conservative base that he’s more than just a numbers guy, Klingler said — that he’s actually one of them.
“In Texas, you can wake up one morning and things seem to be chugging along and then somebody makes a move, and then boom. You’ve got to be ready when the dominoes fall,” Klingler said. “I would be stunned if Glenn was not ready for whatever that opportunity is.”
Disclosure: The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, the Hobby School of Public Affairs and the University of Houston have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.
The full program is now LIVE for the 2022 Texas Tribune Festival, happening Sept. 22-24 in Austin. Explore the schedule of 100+ mind-expanding conversations coming to TribFest, including the inside track on the 2022 elections and the 2023 legislative session, the state of public and higher ed at this stage in the pandemic, why Texas suburbs are booming, why broadband access matters, the legacy of slavery, what really happened in Uvalde and so much more. See the program.