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GOP Candidates for Land Commissioner Share Vision

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The Cenotaph at Alamo Plaza in San Antonio. | Image by Eddie Gaspar, The Texas Tribune

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As a member of the State Board of Education (SBOE), Tom Maynard has worked with both former Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and current Land Commissioner George P. Bush

“We need to have a clear line of communication and understanding,” Maynard said in an interview. “It’s important for the Land Commissioner and school land board to understand what is happening across the street and for the State Board of Education to understand what goes on over there and how that works.”

Commissioner Bush, who has served two terms, is currently campaigning for the office of the Attorney General again. He is also the son of Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida.

When Commissioner Bush previously campaigned to unseat Attorney General Ken Paxton last year, an apparent conflict of interest surfaced around the PSF investing $75 million in Pennybacker Capital’s Pennybacker IV project in 2017. However, Commissioner Bush said he left Pennybacker Capital in 2012 and was not elected as Land Commissioner until 2015. His current term ends on January 17, 2023.

Commissioner Bush did not respond to requests for comment but Karina Erickson, communications director for Commissioner Bush, previously told the Houston Daily, “The GLO [General Land Office] does not have any investments in Pennybacker Capital.”

Constitutionally, the SBOE manages the $48 billion flush Permanent School Fund (PSF), including land assets.

Two Republicans, Texas State Sen. Dawn Buckingham (R-Lakeway) and Dr. Tim Westley are vying to replace Commissioner Bush. 

“The Land Office has got a pretty talented staff, so the incoming Commissioner needs to be a great administrator,” Maynard added. “They’ve got to have good leadership skills, the ability to chair meetings, and have some vision for the office.”

In addition to being the historian for the Republican Party of Texas, Westley is a two-time Republican Party nominee for U.S. Congress, a veteran of the U.S. Army, a pastor, and an adult educator.

“To be the Land Commissioner, I believe you need to have critical thinking, and I taught critical thinking for years in a university, so that alone, I believe, is going to be sufficient to apply what I taught college students and to use that same thing in the general land office as the next commissioner,” he said.

If elected, Westley plans to use his position as Land Commissioner to address Texas public schools ranking in the bottom half of the country.

WalletHub ranked Texas in 26th place out of 50 states and Washington, D.C. in its annual States with the Best and Worst School Systems report.

“This is inexcusable,” Westley told The Dallas Express. “We have quite a bit of funding in the Permanent School Fund that’s going to be channeled to the Texas Education Agency and eventually the school districts. I want to ensure those funds are going towards our schools, eventually to classrooms and the materials that are going to be educating our students.”

Buckingham currently serves in the Texas Senate on the finance committee, is a former school board member for Lake Travis ISD, and has chaired the State Board of Educator Certification.

“I am a successful small businesswoman and a physician,” she said. “I also own agricultural land and understand the importance of stewarding our land.”

In the primaries earlier this year, Buckingham garnered 673,596 votes, compared to 238,255 for Westley. Both advocate for preserving Texas history. 

Westley was drawn to the job because the Land Commissioner has oversight regarding monuments — specifically the Alamo and The Cenotaph in San Antonio.

“As a grassroots activist who speaks on behalf of protecting The Cenotaph to ensure that it was not moved, which would have likely destroyed it, I saw up close and personal the importance of that history and what appears to be attacks on that history,” Westley said in an interview. “As Land Commissioner, I will make sure that monuments will be protected.”

State Sen. Buckingham blames the left and the ‘cancel culture’ for allegedly trying to rewrite history.

“I want to be very clear that there will be no rewriting of our Texas history on my watch,” Buckingham said in an interview. “Texas is a special place founded by very special people, and we need to tell our history loud and proud.”

Westley is particularly interested in veteran homes and veteran cemeteries as a military veteran himself.

“I entered this race because I believe, as a veteran, that I can have an influence on changing the culture at the General Land Office pertaining to our veterans,” Westley said. “The likelihood is there that we’re going to need more veteran cemeteries. I’m not opposed to any type of public-private venture so that we can make sure that we have more veteran cemeteries here in the great state of Texas for our veterans.”

Last December, Rusty Martin, a General Land Office investment officer, questioned why the state should maintain veteran cemeteries because they lose money, according to media reports. Martin subsequently left his investment officer position.

“Cemeteries aren’t built to provide a return on investment,” Westley added. “They are built so that we can honor the dead and, in this case, honor our veterans who have sacrificed everything in some cases to make sure that we have what we call the United States of America and a free Texas.”

Although Buckingham said it was a difficult decision to leave the Texas Senate, she has been endorsed to be the next Land Commissioner by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and former President Donald Trump.

“I really feel like this office, at this time, is literally the tip of the sphere to defend the Texas we know and love for our future generations, whether it’s defending our Texas history, our oil and gas, or our border,” Buckingham added.

The runoff election determining the Republican candidate for Land Commissioner is slated for May 24.

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Thomas Barrett
Thomas Barrett
5 months ago

Dr Westley is the right man for the job.

Ramon
Ramon
5 months ago

As a Marine veteran from Texas I have chosen to be buried at one of our Texas Veterans Cemetery’s. I do trust Dr. Tim Westley to protect the Texas Veterans Cemeteries not to mention HE will protect Texas history regarding our statues and monuments. Dr. Tim Westley for Texas Land Commissioner. texans4tim.com

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