Hilderbran is the pick for Texas comptroller, but a runoff is likely

02/06/2014 5:43 PM

02/06/2014 5:44 PM

There is no shortage of candidates seeking to fill the shoes of departing Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts Susan Combs, who vacates her office early next year after deciding not to run for re-election.

Four GOP hopefuls are competing to serve as the state’s next CFO, treasurer and accountant, a position that oversees a staff of 2,700 and a budget in the millions: state Sen. Glenn Hegar, state Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, small-business owner Debra Medina and former state Rep. Raul Torres.

The winner will face the Democratic candidate, former accountant and oil company CFO Mike Collier.

The candidates might try to outflank each other, but all four are bona fide conservatives. Three have legislative records and all have run for public office.

As the only certified public accountant on the ballot, Torres promises to bring changes to the office through the adoption of the Lean Six Sigma approach to financial problem-solving. His intentions seem genuine, but he is short on new ideas as well as funding.

Medina, the anti-establishment candidate, won name recognition and nearly 20 percent of the vote against then-U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Gov. Rick Perry as the dark horse in the 2010 gubernatorial primary. Her free-market philosophy will resonate with many, but the nurse and party operative has not quite regained her momentum.

Medina has an outside shot, but the race is likely to be a runoff between Hegar and Hilderbran, both sitting legislators.

As chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Hilderbran had explicit oversight over the comptroller’s office. The role, he says, enabled him to identify problems — there were several during Combs’ tenure — and offer solutions and new ideas, for which his campaign suffers no deficit.

His website boasts a 10-point performance pledge that calls for reforms from restoring the state agency performance review process to establishing a taxpayer bill of rights, components of which he pursued while in the Legislature.

Hegar has out-raised his opponents by leaps and bounds and racked up a broad coalition of endorsements, including that of the outgoing comptroller. The youngest member of the Senate, he served on the Sunset Advisory Commission, where he worked to eliminate government waste and inefficiency — an effort he plans to continue if elected.

He is slightly more vague about his specific agenda, but he says he would like to focus on the core functions of the office, beginning with a top-to-bottom review of the agency to remove redundancies.

When it comes to policy, the two legislators agree more than they disagree. But in a job where experience and competency are as important as philosophy, Hilderbran gets the edge.

The Star-Telegram Editorial Board recommends Harvey Hilderbran in the Republican primary for comptroller of public accounts.

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