The only candidates who stayed from the beginning of the event
to the end were Martina Salinas (Green) and Mark Miller (Libertarian),
seated at the front table with an empty chair between them.
The Republican was a no-show. Christian will probably cruise to victory even though he has been ducking public appearances throughout the campaign. We learned from the other candidates that he also skipped meetings with the editorial boards of the Houston Chronicle and the Dallas Morning News.
It was probably an act of cosmic mercy that the Democratic candidate (Yarbrough) was late--since his answers were invariably long-winded and evasive. When a reporter from the Statesman asked the candidates what name the TRC should adopt (since it regulates the energy industry, not railroads), Miller answered with four words: "Texas Energy Resource Commission"; Salinas answered with eight words: "I would put it to a public vote"; and Yarbrough spoke for more than three minutes without indicating what name he preferred or what measures he would take to change the commission's misleading title.
The name needs changing because very few voters in the state have any idea that our three TRC commissioners are responsible for answering important questions about fossil fuels and uranium in Texas. In fact, the oil pumped through DAPL will travel to the Gulf of Mexico via pipelines overseen by the TRC.
Just think about that: Ordinary voters in Texas can influence DAPL based on which candidate we elect to the TRC. Our choices are a Republican who doesn't bother to show up to debates, a Democrat who bloviates about what a "centrist" he is (which is presumably code for how eager he is to accommodate the fossil fuel industry), a Libertarian who believes that no matter what anyone thinks about climate change, it would be irresponsible for the TRC to allow such concerns to influence the extraction and distribution of fossil fuels, and a Green who thinks that the TRC should help Texas lead the charge away from fossil fuels to green energy.
Salinas would therefore have my vote in the absence of any better reason to support her candidacy.
But there is a much better reason to support her for anyone in the state who rejects the RNC/DNC duopoly on politics: Since Salinas is running for a statewide office, she only needs to secure 5% of the vote to guarantee ballot access to all state/national Green candidates in Texas for the next four years.
In other words, if we can get Martina Salinas elected to the TRC, that's a win for the planet and the citizens of Texas.
But even if we can't pull that off, we only have to get 5% of the vote for her in order to achieve a huge victory for third-party candidates in the second most populous state in the country.
I was delighted to meet Salinas after the debate. She is obviously an honest, engaging and thoughtful candidate. Admittedly, there were times in the debate when she stumbled over her words or failed to connect the dots between her thoughts. If I had to assign a letter grade to her performance, I would give her a B+.
In fairness to the Libertarians, their candidate (who has a professional background in both academia and the oil and gas industry) did the best job of explaining problems and thinking on his feet. I didn't like his positions, but he's an apt and affable speaker. Miller earned a solid A.
Yarbrough is a typical Democrat who appears to have borrowed heavily from Hillary Clinton's playbook. All of his answers were slow, unfocused, and lengthy--clearly designed to suck the energy out of the room and to lull the audience into thinking that he was saying something simply because his mouth was moving. But he mostly talked nonsense, as when he asserted that the only non-toxic element on the periodic table is water. (Perhaps some friendly chemists can explain to Mr. Yarbrough that water doesn't appear on the periodic table because it is a compound of two distinct elements. As for the political danger of coming out so publicly against oxygen, let's trust him to discover that on his own.) Under ordinary circumstances, I would have given Yarbrough a D, but he gets a C- simply for showing up (even though he was more than half an hour late).
I give Christian an F for missing so many of these events that his Democratic challenger has never even met him. And I give my own fellow citizens in Texas an F for being so eager to elect Christian simply out of habitual support for Republicans.
But even though I admit that Salinas could have performed a little bit better, I think it's up to Green-leaning Texans to do a LOT better in terms of supporting her.
We need to secure more than 5% of the vote for her, and I encourage anyone with an idea of how to achieve that objective to post a comment below.