Texas Candidate Would Bring Water Policy Chops to Congress

March 7, 2018

By Tiffany Stecker

Texas’ 27th Congressional District could send a politician to the House this fall with deep knowledge of water infrastructure and drought issues that plague many parts of the country.

Former Texas Water Development Board Chairman Bech Bruun advanced to a runoff in the March 6 Republican primary, with 36 percent of the vote, in the race to represent the Corpus Christi-area district. He will face state Republican party executive Michael Cloud, who got 34 percent, in a May 22 runoff election in this solidly Republican district.

Former Gov. Rick Perry (R) appointed Bruun to the water board in 2013. He was promoted to chairman two years later. His arrival to the board coincided with a dry period in the state, at which point more than 95 percent of its land was in drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The water board oversees loans for water infrastructure projects around the state, from pipeline construction to agricultural irrigation efforts. It is also responsible for conducting research on water use and efficiency.

‘Run the Wheels Off’

Bruun traveled across the state to visit local water districts, an unusual move for a typically quiet, bureaucratic job in Austin.

“He’s run the wheels off of his vehicle going from one end of the state to the other,” Jim Bradbury, a Fort Worth, Texas-based environmental attorney and founder of James D. Bradbury PLLC, told Bloomberg Environment.

Bradbury worked with Bruun and testified with him in support of state legislation to lower the interest rate of water infrastructure projects that partner with conservation districts. He praised the candidate’s “balanced” views on policy.

“His approach to policy and government very much matches his personality,” Bradbury said. “That is extremely rare in a statewide political leader in this state.”

Bruun resigned from the board in December 2017 to prepare for his U.S. House campaign. If elected, Bruun would represent a Gulf Coast district with a heavy reliance on the chemical and oil industries. The seat is rated safe Republican by the three major ratings groups.

The seat is currently held by GOP Rep. Blake Farenthold, who is not running for re-election amid allegations that he spent federal money to settle a sexual harassment complaint. Democrats Eric Holguin and Raul Barrera also advanced to the runoff.

Closely Watched State

Texas’ U.S. House races are closely watched around the country, given the high number of incumbents in the state who will retire or resign this year. Democrats are hoping to seize Republican-held districts that voted to elect Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

GOP Rep. John Culberson, whose 7th Congressional District was hit hard by Hurricane Harvey in 2017, avoided a runoff and won 77 percent of the vote against primary challenger Edward Ziegler.

Culberson is considered one of the most vulnerable GOP incumbents in the state, and will challenge either Lizzie Pannill Fletcher or Laura Moser in the November general election.