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Railroad Commission Chairman David Porter won’t run for re-election

In a surprise move that leaves a statewide seat up for grabs in 2016, the chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission, the state agency that regulates the oil and gas industry, announced Thursday that he will withdraw from his re-election race.

David Porter said “a lot of things had crescendoed up” to lead to his decision — especially the realization that he might need to raise a lot of money for re-election after a well-funded opponent filed to run against him in the primary.

“I’m not a fundraiser, I’m not a politician,” said the accountant from Midland, who was first elected to statewide office in 2010 in a wave of Tea Party dissatisfaction. “It became obvious to me that I’d have to raise a million or two dollars in the next few months.

“I had a sudden flash of sanity.”

The announcement immediately led several veteran politicians to announce interest in the post, including former Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and state Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, who has long served in key roles on the House energy resources and natural resources committees.

The move was a drastic turn for Porter: Less than a month ago, filing paperwork to seek re-election, he had declared: “I am all in.”

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“We have taken on the fight against radical leftists, who put their own agenda before the needs of the people,” said Porter, who has long seen the Obama administration as guilty of regulatory overreach. “To protect the energy resources of Texas, and the backbone of our economy, I pledge to every Texan that I will continue my fight against this president and his cronies at every turn.”

Porter had already picked up support from U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas — Porter serves as the Texas co-chair of Cruz’s GOP presidential nomination bid — and from his two fellow commissioners, who recently named him chairman.

But he faced a primary challenge from Gary Gates, a Houston-area businessman who made money in real estate and who reportedly spent at least $1.7 million in an unsuccessful run for a state senate seat in 2014, and John Greytok, an Austin attorney.

Grady Yarbrough, a retired San Antonio educator, is the sole Democrat currently registered to run.

“I have done my public sector service and now it’s time for me to take care of my family,” Porter said. “I looked at another six or seven years at that salary level and where it would put me financially.”

Porter earns about $135,000 as chairman of the Railroad Commission.

Patterson, a former Republican state senator and land commissioner, said Thursday he is considering running for the post.

“The thing that got me motivated, is that we have this orchestrated effort by the left, from a variety of folks, against hydrocarbon energy in this country, and fighting the misguided and sometimes lying opposition from these groups gets my juices going,” Patterson said.

And Keffer, who had already announced he would be departing the House, told the Quorum Report he may also enter the race.

“I feel like we need to have someone who knows and understands the oil and gas industry running it,” Keffer told the Quorum Report.

This article was written by Asher Price from Austin American-Statesman and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.