Republican Sid Miller to lead Texas Department of Agriculture

Republican and former State Representative Sid Miller scored a solid victory at the polls Tuesday over his Democrat opponent Jim Hogan with an overwhelming 60 percent of the popular vote to become the next Texas Commissioner of Agriculture.

Now that the smoke has cleared from Tuesday's mid-term elections, a new face will be moving into the Commissioner's chair of the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA).

Republican and former State Representative Sid Miller scored a solid victory at the polls Tuesday over his Democrat opponent Jim Hogan with an overwhelming 60 percent of the popular vote and is now poised to take the reins and become a member of the executive branch of the state government, following in the footsteps of a growing number of politicians who have used the office as a catapult to further their political ambitions.

While Miller is considered by many to be a life-long rancher and a natural fit for the commissioner's post, others say there was little doubt that in a red state like Texas, the real challenge to holding state office is winning the Republican primary.

In this election at least, it appears nothing could be closer to the truth.

Hogan, Miller's chief political opponent in the race, who after winning the Democratic Party nomination earlier this year publicly elaborated on his intent to run a simple campaign. He vowed to make no effort to raise campaign funds and to by-pass all campaign efforts as a demonstration of his commitment to serve Texas without "playing political games."

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Greatly criticized for his lack of effort, Hogan, a farmer and insurance agent from Cleburne, maintained he wanted Texas voters to be "realistic about campaigning and politics," a position not shared by most Democratic Party leaders.

"The only attention that Jim Hogan was getting is that he was running a non-traditional campaign. We don't believe that was helpful," said Texas Democratic Party Executive Director Will Hailer.

Hailer and many fellow Democrats have even questioned whether Hogan was a true party member, a position that Hogan never denied. Following the primary elections earlier this year he admitted he signed up as a Democrat because it offered the path of least resistance to the general elections. Hogan had previously indicated he believed less campaigning meant less political corruption.

Such a position failed to impress Miller who quickly raised $250,000 in support of his campaign after the Republican runoff election in May and initiated a whirlwind tour of the state to "meet the voters." Miller said he believes moving about the state and mixing with voters has helped him to better understand the pressing needs of farmers and ranchers in the state.

Miller becomes the new commissioner-elect of agriculture after incumbent Todd Staples stepped down earlier this year to throw his hat into the ring in an effort to become the state's next attorney general, a race he lost in the Republican primary election. Miller was endorsed by Staples to assume his post as agriculture commissioner.

Miller comes to the office of agriculture commissioner with some experience as a state political figure. Formerly a Texas State Representative and Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety, he says he will continue to address border initiatives and tighter controls on illegal immigrants entering the state, a primary focus of Staples' agricultural policy.

Also of primary concern, Miller says he will continue to address the urgent need of water shortages in Texas and will make every effort to reduce government spending, boost rural health care and address growing food security issues. He says he also wants to revamp the "GO TEXAN" program, the state's agriculture marketing campaign that has helped to promote agricultural products grown and raised in Texas, since 1999.

As far as Miller using the agriculture commissioner's seat as a catapult to loftier political ambitions, as did many of the former politicians that held the office, the Commissioner-elect has made no reference or comment. But a quick look back at the office and those that occupied it may provide a clue.

The office is where Gov. Rick Perry began his ascent as a state executive in 1991. Following Perry was Susan Combs, who's now the outgoing state comptroller, and most recently Todd Staples, who spent many of his years using the office of agriculture commissioner to build his political profile the unsuccessful run for the office of lieutenant governor this year.

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