What should one look for in a candidate for U.S. Senate? A certain amount of intelligence, competence, ability to work well with others. A bit of leadership experience would be nice, but not necessarily the same amount as one needs in a governor or president. Someone who is familiar with the issues of the day, though not necessarily an expert. (That’s what aides and advisors are for.) An innovative thinker. A man/woman of principle, with personal and professional integrity. Someone who values service to his country and fellow-citizens over power and the privileges of office. And, last but not least, a healthy, originalist respect for the U.S. Constitution & Bill of Rights.

When Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison decided to run for Governor of Texas, she promised to resign her senatorial seat shortly after the election, whether she won or not. Before the ensuing special election, the then-elected Governor — who ended up being the incumbent Gov. Rick Perry — must pick someone to serve out the rest of Hutchinson’s term. (If she ever gets around to stepping down, that is.) This is where Michael Williams comes into the picture, because he threw his hat… er, name into the ring to fill that seat way back in Dec. 2008. So, who is this guy?

Michael L. Williams headshot

Commissioner Michael Williams

“I learned I could compete, could succeed and had value. That was the genius of my parents’ emphasis on religious faith, strong family and community bonds, self-reliance, hard work and learning.”

Michael L. Williams was born in 1953 to a pair of public school teachers who were very conservative but not particularly political. He grew up in Midland, Texas, excelling in academics (especially spelling, speech, & science), athletics, and student government. All of these aptitudes would serve him well in the coming years. After earning his law degree from USC Law School (1979), Williams returned to Texas to pursue his career. He eventually became an assistant district attorney in his hometown of Midland. In 1985, Williams married his wife Donna, a mechanical engineer who is now a regional V.P. for Parsons Corporation.

Williams has had the privilege of working in three executive departments of the federal government. From 1984-1988, he prosecuted hate crimes and police misconduct cases at the U.S. Department of Justice in the Reagan Administration, where he was awarded the Attorney General’s “Special Achievement Award”. (He prosecuted the KKK, who threatened his life.) Then he was assigned the office of Special Assistant to the Attorney General from 1988 to 1989. From 1989 to 1990, Williams served in the U.S. Department of the Treasury as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Law Enforcement. His duties there gave him policy oversight for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Customs Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. He was then (1990) appointed by President George H.W. Bush to be Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. All before he was 40.

Williams served as “of Counsel” with the Haynes and Boone law firm (1993-1996) and as General Counsel to a minority-owned high-tech corporation (1997-1999). He volunteered his services as General Counsel for the Republican Party of Texas, as chair of the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission, and on the Board of Directors of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, and Our Mother of Mercy Catholic School. He also taught in the School of Public Affairs and Texas Wesleyan School of Law as an adjunct professor at Texas Southern University.

Since 1999 Williams has served as one of the three members of the Texas Railroad Commission. But, don’t ask Commissioner Williams about railroads. (Well, you could….) As it turns out, the Commission hasn’t had anything to do with them since 2005. Instead, the RRC oversees & regulates oil, natural gas, and other energy issues. Originally appointed by Gov. George W. Bush in 1998 to fill a vacancy, Williams then handily won the special election for the unexpired term in 2000. The 2002 race was closer, but he won the 6-year term by better than a 13% margin. Williams ran unopposed for the Republican nomination in March 2008, gaining broad party support from several hundred Republican grassroots leaders across Texas, most members of the State Republican Executive Committee (SREC), 100+ county chairmen, and both members of the Republican National Committee (RNC) from Texas. Vowing to “develop new energy sources, create a pro-growth energy policy, control government spending, and produce the next generation of mathematicians, scientists and engineers,” Williams won that November with 52% of the vote. He is not only a commissioner but chairman of the RRC from Sept. 1999 to Sept. 2003, then again from June 2007 until present.

Commissioner Michael Williams on TV

Michael Williams on Texas Monthly Talks

Williams is proud to chair the Governor’s Clean Coal Technology Council and represent the Governor and the Commission on the Southern States Energy Board. He chairs the Governor’s Competitiveness Council and is a member of both the National Coal Council (an advisory board to the U.S. Secretary of Energy) and the Interstate Compact Commission. He also serves as “point person” for agency regulatory reform and technology modernization efforts. In Sept. 2005, Gov. Perry asked Williams to spearhead Texas’ long-term efforts for Hurricane Katrina relief, and he initiated the Texas response against the tragedy in Darfur. Until recently, Williams was Honorary State Chairman of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Texas, which “helps to enrich, encourage, and empower children through safe, positive, one-to-one mentoring relationships.” He also created and co-sponsors a summer camp program — “Williams Future Innovators”, or “Winnovators” — that, in line with his campaign promises, encourages “the next generation of scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians.”

According to Williams, central to his way of thinking is the question “What is going to uplift the community?” On any particular issue, what is going to enhance the freedom of individuals and the ability to control their own lives?

So, I know you’re wondering, what are Williams’ positions on the big issues? What is his record like?

Here are a few nuggets:

Government Size: “Government’s primary responsibility is to advance the cause of freedom and promote, protect and secure the inalienable rights that were endowed to us by God. As such, the proper role of government is both limited and subordinate to man. In its proper role, the federal government would refrain from usurping the proper functions that should be performed by state and local governments—who are closer to the people.”

Government Spending: “We need to bring greater transparency to spending to curtail waste, reform the flawed earmark process, and control the growth of government. Wasteful government spending puts a needless burden on the next generation….” He has been consistently against pay raises for federal workers, who already make much more than their private-sector peers. In fact, he has refused to accept his own (significant) pay raises, as voted on by the Texas legislature, 3 times in the past few years. He even cut the size of the Commission’s bureaucracy by 20%.

Taxes & the Economy: “The best tax system helps make poor people rich, not rich people poor. An efficient tax system has a broad tax base and a low tax rate. America has the second highest corporate tax burden in the developed world. We need to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit by cutting taxes and reforming the tax code with a flat tax…. The key to generating jobs and growth is cutting taxes instead of raising them. It is a fundamental issue of fairness, and it is critical to bringing America out of recession.”

Michael Williams signing pledge

Michael Williams signing Taxpayer Protection Pledge

Healthcare: “I don’t want either the insurance clerk or a government bureaucrat making healthcare decisions for me.” He wants patient-centered reform that encourages flexibility, choice, & competition; increased use of HSAs and no government-run “public option”.

Climate Change: “I believe that the science is unsettled…. I disagree that Man is the principle cause of any kind of warming of the planet. But, more important than that, I disagree with [the Obama Administration about] the economics and the financial costs that would be imposed by… whether it is Kyoto-style emissions reductions or whether it’s an EPA-mandated emissions reduction or whether it is Cap-and-Tax…. I call it ‘Cap-our-economy-and-Trade-our-jobs-to-China.”

Energy: “[O]ur motto should be ‘all of the above.'” Strong believer in “Drill, baby, drill!”, building nuclear power plants, utilizing more clean coal, harnessing wind power through the Texas corridor, and incentivizing the development of innnovative, clean, alternative-fuel technologies. His initiative called “Breathe Easy” advocates the conversion of Texas public and private fleets (especially schoolbuses) from diesel & gasoline to environmentally cleaner, cheaper and domestically-produced natural gas and propane.

Border Security/Immigration: “Border control is a matter of national security. Amnesty is an affront to the rule of law. To reduce illegal immigration, we must secure the border first with both physical and virtual fences as well as more patrols; aggressively enforce sanctions against employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants; immediately deport immigrant felons; require applicants for a temporary work visa to return home and maintain a tamper-proof identification card…. For generations, immigrants have provided America with a great vitality and robustness. Coming to America must mean more than coming for a job. Coming to America is about coming to be an American. And it must be done in accord with the rule of law.”

War in Afghanistan: Primarily it should be a counterterrorist mission, making sure the jihadists cannot use Afghanistan as a base from which to export terrorism. Rebuilding the country is another mission, and a broader and more difficult one.

Further conservative credentials:

o argued against racial preferences in academic admissions

o lifetime member of the National Rifle Association

o helped get out the vote for Republicans as Chairman of Texas Victory 2004 and 2006

o served as Convention Chairman and Platform Committee Chairman at Republican Party of Texas’ State Conventions

o one of the original board members of the Texas Christian Coalition

Michael Williams with Newt Gingrich

Michael Williams and Newt Gingrich

Known for his signature bowtie, Williams is a popular, well-respected elected official in Texas. He is a devout Catholic and unabashedly pro-life and pro-business. He is a clear-thinking, articulate, and principled conservative, not to mention “an engaging and charming conversationalist.” And, he has the endorsement of solid conservatives like former Speaker Newt Gingrich, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), and RedState. (Also, former NYC Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, whom I generally like, though I can’t bring myself to call him a “solid conservative”.) DeMint called Williams “probably one of the brightest stars in the country” among conservatives, and “we’ve got some great candidates around the country but none better than Michael Williams.” Barring any future scandal, he looks like a great candidate for the GOP.

No doubt about it, I like this guy. If you do, too, stop over at WilliamsForTexas for more information — maybe even sign up to volunteer or make a donation. We need more consistent, courageous conservatives like Michael Williams in the U.S. Senate.

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