Politics & Government

Fort Worth Democrat Lon Burnam files for Texas Railroad Commissioner


Former state Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, has joined the race to become the next Texas Railroad Commissioner.

Burnam drove to Austin Sunday to file for the post, just days after incumbent Republican Railroad Commissioner David Porter announced he was withdrawing from the race.

But Burnam, 62, said he has been thinking about running for this commission since the 1980s and had already made up his mind to get in the race before Porter’s announcement.

“I really care about energy resources issues. They are at the core of everything that’s important to Texas,” said Burnam, who served through the years on a variety of legislative committees including the House Energy Resources Committee. “We have to produce our natural resources, because we consume so much, for the security of the world.

“We also have to do it reasonably and responsibly and we haven’t been doing that.”

Burnam, who lost his re-election bid last year to Ramon Romero Jr. after nearly 20 years in the Texas House, joins an already crowded race for the three-member commission that regulates the oil and gas industry, natural gas utilities, mining and pipeline safety.

Already, three Republicans — Gary Gates of Rosenberg, John Greytok of Austin and Ron Hale of Cypress — are in the race, as well as one other Democrat, Grady Yarbrough of Flint, state party records show. And still more candidates may join the race before the filing deadline, which is the close of business Monday.

Former Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, as well as state Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, and former state Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, have all said they are considering potential bids themselves for the post that pays more than $115,000 a year. Created by the Texas Legislature in 1891, the railroad commission is the state’s oldest regulatory agency.

Burnam’s bid

Burnam, a longtime environmentalist and peace activist, has done a variety of volunteer work since leaving the Legislature earlier this year, including serving as liaison for Public Citizen, a consumer watchdog group.

Long considered one of the House's most liberal members, Burnam lost to Romero by 111 votes in last year’s Democratic primary. Burnam sued to challenge the results, believing the election was scuttled by illegal mail-in ballots.

After losing several rounds in the courtroom, Burnam dropped the lawsuit. Romero was sworn in to represent House District 90 in January.

This will be Burnam’s first bid for statewide office. And he said he’s the right man for the job.

“I’m quite simply the best qualified Democrat in the race,” he said. “And I’m more qualified than any Republican in the race.”

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley