Barry Smitherman

Horns Up: Commissioners' commitment.

In interviews with the Texas Tribune, candidates for the Texas Railroad Commission have taken the incredibly selfless step of committing to a full six-year term if elected to doing the job they’ve all signed up for. Precedent doesn’t bode well: The current chairman, Barry Smitherman, has only been in the job since 2011, having taken over from Michael Williams when he was appointed education commissioner by Gov. Rick Perry after four years on the commission. In any other job, keeping your word would be seen as a bare minimum, but in a position known primarily as a stepping stone to higher office, we suppose it’s progress. Good for state Rep. Stefani Carter, R-Dallas; Malachi Boyuls; and Ryan Sitton for agreeing to bring some stability of leadership to the office and give this editorial board a steady target for six years.

Horns Down: Sticking up for hate groups.

According to an email he sent to protest his daughter’s schools’ curriculum on civil rights last year, Texas Railroad Commission chairman and Attorney General candidate Barry Smitherman apparently believes that the Southern Poverty Law Center, a major civil rights non-profit organization, has a “radical” definition of racism, hate and intolerance. In the email, Smitherman protested the SPLC’s classification of Crusaders for Yahweh, Border Guardians, and the Jewish Defense League as “hate groups.” Crusaders for Yahweh is a self-described white supremacist organization founded by a neo-Nazi and devoted to “the advancement and survival of our Racial People’s the true children of Israel [sic].” The leader of Border Guardians has openly advocated for violent campaigns against undocumented immigrants. And the Jewish Defense League is classified as a “right-wing terrorist group” by the FBI, and has been linked to numerous acts of violence, including an assassination attempt on Republican Congressman Darrell Issa. We think the SPLC’s definition of “hate” is pretty reasonable. On another note, we’d like to thank the tea party group Voices Empower for posting the email on their Facebook page on Monday and showing us what kind of groups Smitherman endorses.

Railroad Commissioner and Attorney General candidate Barry Smitherman. 

Photo courtesy of the Railroad Commission of Texas. 

In an Aug. 15 address to the Texas Alliance for Life, an anti-abortion organization, Texas Railroad Commission chairman and Attorney General candidate Barry Smitherman gave quite a speech. The best sound bite came when he claimed that many unborn babies “would have voted Republican.” However, that crass and mystifying statement wasn’t even the most absurd claim Smitherman made in the same speech.

Smitherman also bemoaned America’s fertility rate, calling it the equivalent of China’s government-mandated one-child policy for urban couples. “Today, America’s total fertility rate is 1.93,” Smitherman said. “The needed replacement rate in America is 2.1. So, we are not making enough babies to replace Americans that are dying.” In fact, official estimates for America’s fertility rate vary from 1.93 to 2.06.

Smitherman, unsatisfied with America’s current population of 316 million, pointed to the social and economic benefits of a higher birth rate: “Despite what you may have heard about the world becoming overpopulated, and the need for fewer people in order to sustain the planet (a favorite line of global warming alarmists), growing populations of young people lead to innovation, creativity, a growing economy and a cleaner planet.”

According to the CIA World Factbook, all of the 45 highest national fertility rates are found in Sub-Saharan Africa, with the exceptions of Afghanistan, Timor-Leste, the Gaza Strip, Yemen and Western Sahara. If there’s a causal relationship between a nation’s fertility rate and its economic health, it’s not a positive one. 

The U.S. certainly wouldn’t be better off with a fertility rate of 4 births per woman, which would put it about level with Sudan. And yet, Smitherman noted that he and his wife were “doing their part” by having four children of their own. 

Smitherman may be happy with four children, but he shouldn’t assume that Texas families are one-size-fits-all. Before he truly begins his campaign for the office of Attorney General in a state of 29 million, Smitherman should rethink his ridiculous and illogical remarks. 

HOUSTON — The Texas agency that oversees oil and gas drilling in the state has elected a new chairman who will oversee a thorough review ordered by the Legislature.

Barry Smitherman was elected Tuesday chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission. He replaces Elizabeth Ames Jones who recently resigned.

The Railroad Commission approves oil and gas drilling permits, and oversees other aspects of the state’s energy field. It does not oversee railroads.

Smitherman says he will ensure the agency uses scientific standards in decision-making, because “we must not let the political appointees in Washington kill our economic engine and kill our jobs.” Texas often opposes federal regulation over drilling and environmental issues.

He will also oversee the thorough review of the agency’s operations, rules and regulations by the Sunset Advisory Commission.