State Comptroller Hustle – Where Are the Women?


This week, Susan Combs, State Comptroller, announced she will not seek re-election to the post and will not seek any other office. She is done.

This immediately set off a flurry of activity among potential Republican candidates. Some announced immediately, like Senator Glenn Hegar. Others are considering running, including the inimitable Tom Craddick, former Speaker of the Texas House and one of its longest serving members. Other names bandied about include Senator Tommy Williams and Rep. Harvey Hildebran. Former Tea Party candidate for Governor, Debra Medina, has also announced her commitment to run. This blogger hasn’t seen any indication of Democrats announcing for the office, only Republicans.

Susan Combs has had a long career in Texas Politics and Texans have liked having a woman as Comptroller. For the last several years, she has been the only female among the 6 single office state-wide elected officials. There is a woman on the Texas Railroad Commission and a few women among the state wide judicial offices. However, there is no question that among state offices, Combs has been the ranking female.

I teach Women in Politics at the University of Houston. As a part of my ongoing research for that ever-changing course, I study women elected officials across the U.S. and beyond. Americans truly like to put women in charge of money. Two-thirds of elected budget positions in the U.S. are held by females. Studies indicate that voters “trust” women more to manage money.

In Texas, we once had a State Treasurer. This position launched Ann Richards and Kay Bailey Hutchison to higher offices. Both of them held the position prior to being elected Governor and U.S. Senator. Another woman, Martha Whitehead, took over the office. The office was abolished in 1995 by Texas voters.

In 1998, Carole Keeton Rylander Strayhorn was elected State Comptroller and a female has held the office since then. Strayhorn served from 1998 through 2006 when she ran for Governor. Combs was elected to the open position in 2006.

Yet, among the candidate names we hear being bandied, there is only one female – Debra Medina. She will run as an outsider. Will the party apparatus get behind her?

And where is the pipeline for women candidates? With the retirement of Hutchison as U.S. Senator and the retirement of Combs, female officeholders in Texas are dwindling rapidly.

If the Democrats were smart, they ought to find a strong female candidate with budget experience and run her for State Comptroller. They don’t really have much of a chance in a statewide election but a strong female would be better than most.

Thanks to Susan Combs for carrying the torch statewide.

This entry was originally posted at Nancy Sims' blog, Ponderings.