by Aaron Arguello

Now that we’ve looked at what voting in Texas under Senate Bill 1 looks like, and the importance of down ballot voting, you may be wondering what else will be on your ballot come next month’s election. With the primaries nearly upon us, today we’ll be going over some of the state level positions that will be up for election in March. Let’s break it down by office!


You may be familiar with our current Governor, Greg Abbott. But just what are the responsibilities of the office? Elected for four year terms, the Governor of Texas is the highest executive position in the state. Responsibilities include:

  • signing and vetoing bills passed by the state legislature, such as SB 1
  • convening special sessions of the Legislature (of which we recently saw several!! 🤢)
  • submitting state budgets, which are then approved by the Legislature (2021’s budget was $250 billion)
  • granting pardons
  • appointing positions ranging from boards & commissions, to Secretary of State & Texas Supreme Court justices
  • Declaring special elections to fill vacant roles
  • Commander-in-chief of the state’s military forces ($100 million+ budget)
    • State Army National Guard (18,000 personnel)
    • State Air National Guard (3,000 personnel)
    • Texas State Guard (1,600 personnel)

That’s a lot of responsibilities. 

Whereas in recent years, the Governor has focused on restricting voting & reproductive rights, here are a few ways those same responsibilities could be used to advance progressive causes and help vulnerable Texans:

  • Declare climate change a state of emergency and allocate resources to combat it
  • Mass commute jail sentences of groups incarcerated for drug crimes and other low level offenses, especially victims of racial discrimination and survivors of human trafficking and domestic violence
  • Appoint progressive justices and a Secretary of State who champions voting rights
  • Convene Special for relevant issues, such as climate change, rather than voter suppression
  • Veto harmful legislation that harms the environment, restricts voting rights, or disenfranchises communities

Lieutenant Governor 

Also elected for four year terms, the Lieutenant Governor is a unique position within the state, with powers in both the legislative AND executive branches, which is uncommon amongst other states. These legislative powers make the Texas Lieutenant Governor arguably one of the most powerful state officials nationwide. Our current Lieutenant Governor is Dan Patrick. Let’s take a look at some of the specific responsibilities of this position:

  • Establishment and appointment of all legislature committees, chairpersons, and members
  • Assigning Senate legislation to the committee of his choice
  • Sets Senate parliamentary and procedural rules
  • Decision-making vote in the case of a tie in the Texas Senate
  • One of five members of the state redistricting board
  • Next in line to the position of Governor if the incumbent resigns, dies, or is otherwise unable to execute the office

In recent years, we’ve seen legislative committees and assignments designed to restrict voting rights, meaningful climate action, as well as immigration and criminal justice reform. A progressive use of the Lieutenant Governor role would help ensure more meaningful progressive policy makes its way through the lege, and to the Governor’s desk. Additionally, a progressive presence on the state redistricting board could help decrease the amount of discriminatory gerrymandering present in Texas’ district maps.

Attorney General

Next up is the Attorney General of Texas.  The attorney general acts as the chief legal officer of Texas. Our current Attorney General is Ken Paxton. The roles of this office include:

  • Defending Texas laws
  • Representing the state in litigation
  • Approval of public bond issues

From suing cities over their COVID-19 safety protocols, to defending racist gerrymandering, to attacking transgender youth, to attempting to contest the 2020 presidential election, the current Attorney General’s record reads like an encyclopedia of frivolous lawsuits that stand in the way of a better Texas. In the hands of a progressive Attorney General, the office could defend, rather than attack progressive policy.


Comptroller? Like the thing you play video games with?

Not quite. The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts is the chief financial officer of the state government. Glenn Hegar has held the office since 2015. The responsibilities of the Comptroller include:

  • Maintaining the state’s finances
  • Collecting taxes and fees
  • Paying agencies’ bills
  • Issue paychecks to state employees
  • Producer animal financial reports

The current Comptroller has advocated for weakening transparency and accountability for Chapter 313, Texas’ largest tax break program, as well as against expansion of renewable energy generation. By taking more progressive stances on these issues, this often overlooked, but critically vital office could be used to help make the state more equitable, while encouraging a transition to green energy.

Land Commissioner

The Land Commissioner serves as the head of the Texas General Land Office. George P. Bush has held the office since 2015. The Land Commissioner’s responsibilities include:

  • Managing about 13 million acres of Texas’ publicly owned lands (This sometimes involves selling public lands. Proceeds are added to the Texas Permanent School fund, which funds Texas public schools.)
  • Keeping records of land grands
  • Issuing maps and surveys of public lands
  • Managing the Alamo

Following Winter Storm Uri in 2021, the office attacked wind and solar energy in spite of fossil and nuclear plants accounting for the majority of power failures. In more progressive hands, the Land Commissioner could encourage a transition to clean energy, both by correctly laying blame for power outages and climate change as well as air quality on fossil fuels, while reducing the amount of public land being sold to oil and gas companies in favor of wind and solar energy generation, therefore freeing public education from being tied to fossil fuels for funding.

Agriculture Commissioner

The Texas Commissioner of Agriculture serves as the head of the Texas Department of Agriculture. Sid Miller has held the office since 2015. The Agriculture Commissioner’s responsibilities include:

  • Regulation of fuel pumps,use of pesticide, and organic food certification
  • Overseeing statewide agricultural production
  • Providing grants and financial assistance to farmers and ranchers
  • Overseeing the Department of Agriculture’s School Lunch and Breakfast program
  • Offering infrastructure grants to rural communities
  • Developing statewide broadband services

While the office has faced criticism multiple times for soliciting bribes, spreading misinformation, and using tax dollars for trips to the rodeo, most recently, the office has stepped in to block a federal law covering the debts of Black farmers, who have faced historical discrimination from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Under progressive leadership, the office could instead be used to empower socially disadvantaged farmers, rather than continuing to attack them.  

Railroad Commission

Though the name may imply the position entails overseeing the state’s railroads, this three-member executive agency actually regulates oil and gas businesses in Texas. Jurisdiction of Texas railroad was transferred to the Texas Department of Transportation in 2005. The current Railroad Commissioners are Christi Craddick, Wayne Christian, and James Wright. Responsibilities of the Railroad Commission include:

  • Overseeing the state’s oil and natural gas industry
  • Overseeing pipelines, coal mining operations, and natural gas utilities

Due to the confusing name of the department, only 1 in 10 Texas knows the main function of the Railroad Commission. This misconception, combined with a general lack of transparency has allowed the Commission to allow oil and gas companies to operate with little regulation, while actively fighting against attempts to switch to renewable energy generation, such as wind and solar power. Under current leadership, the Commission has been critical of federal energy regulation, placing emphasis on free market principles over environmental protection. 

Recently, the Commission has faced criticism over failing to properly weatherize its facilities, leading to the statewide power outages that occurred during Winter Storm Uri. Commissioners were quick to defend oil and gas after these outages. Under more progressive leadership, the Railroad Commission could dedicate its efforts to proper weatherization of plants and stricter regulation of oil and natural gas industries.

These positions wield a massive amount of power, and in the hands of a candidate with a strong progressive voice, are each capable of improving the lives of many Texans. While achieving statewide change may seem like a difficult task, the presence of strong voting rights, energy justice, racial justice, and housing justice champions in these statewide offices could massively improve our chances of achieving that change, not to mention preventing future catastrophes, like we saw during Winter Storm Uri. 

This upcoming primary election will be a key one, and while the sheer number of candidates may be imposing to look at, we hope that this rundown of the responsibilities of each office, and possibilities for how they could be used for good will help inform decisions, and provide some much-needed accessibility into the overall voting process. Happy voting!

Aaron Arguello
Aaron Arguello (he/him) is the San Antonio Advocacy Organizer at MOVE Texas.