Lt. gov. hopeful Staples touts conservative problem solving
Feb. 18, 2014 at 11 p.m.
Predicting a Republican runoff between himself and the incumbent, East Texan Todd Staples said on a Longview campaign stop that the lieutenant governor's desk is as high as he wants to climb on the state's political ladder.
"No," he said when asked if he wants a higher office. "I'm running for lieutenant governor because I know what a lieutenant governor is supposed to do. They are supposed to focus on the fundamentals and get things done."
Staples leads the Texas Department of Agriculture as its commissioner.
The Palestine native is in a four-man race for the GOP nomination for the post that guides the Texas Senate. Incumbent David Dewhurst, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Sen. Dan Patrick seek the March 4 nod from Republican voters. Sen. Leticia Van de Putte is alone on the Democratic ballot.
The lieutenant governor assigns the upper chamber's 31 members to committees and presides over the movement of bills through the Senate.
Staples has focused energy, in his campaign and as ag commissioner, on border security issues. He used grants from his agency to help the Department of Public Safety secure the Rio Grande region, but also sent Texas Agriculture Department grants to the Texas Forest Service for feral hog abatement.
"There's a lot of areas where I've crossed agency lines to solve problems," he said, after describing a desalinization team comprised of his staff and those at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
Staples, 50, arrived in the House of Representatives as the first Republican elected from his district since Reconstruction, in 1995 when today's GOP majority in Austin was eight years distant.
An early member of the growing conservative caucus, he said he learned to produce results by reaching across the aisle.
"You can be a leader, and you can solve problems and be a conservative at the same time," Staples said, his examples being legislative work that abolished two state agencies and, as ag commissioner, merged divisions.
Staples said he amended the weights and measures protocol, creating risk-based inspections. He also quadrupled fines for failure to comply with state standards on gas pumps, grocery scales, egg safety and other aspects of the inspection program.
"And the industry supported me on that," he said.
Staples was elected to the House about four years after whetting his political chops on a contentious Palestine City Council. He joined the Senate in 2001 and has been agriculture commissioner since 2009.
"I've been a consistent conservative that has pulled people together to solve problems," he said. "I am a conservative who can bring people together, and I have a good record of doing that."
Staples finally mused back on the lieutenant governorship of Democrat Bob Bullock, who ran the Senate when George W. Bush was governor.
"Immediately, you think of Bob Bullock when you look at getting things done," Staples said, recalling Bullock, Bush and Democratic House Speaker Pete Laney walking the Capitol halls to each other's offices before daily sessions. "That's the kind of lieutenant governor I want to be, is having those early morning meetings and finding solutions and not demagogue-ing."