Retiring Texas Railroad Commissioner and Tea Party favorite Michael Williams has decided to run for the U.S. Senate.
The bow tie-clad, boot-shod Black Texan said Jan. 25 that he wants to bring his starkly conservative views—including no preferential treatment for Blacks in higher education, acceleration of oil exploration in coastal areas and a reduced role for the federal government in public policy—to the Senate.
If successful, he would be the first African-American Republican senator in over 30 years. The last Black Republican senator was Edward Brooke of Massachusetts, who lost a re-election bid in 1978.
Williams announced his retirement from the railroad commission Jan. 24, after 11 years in the post.
Williams adopted the bow-ties and boots as a prank while serving as assistant secretary of education in the 1990s for President George H.W. Bush as a way of easing tension when he appeared before a Senate committee hearing in front of hostile Democrats.
“I wanted to bring a light moment to the hearing, be humorous,” he told the Web site The Daily Beast. “We had a very confrontational hearing anyway. But I had bought all these bow ties….”
But the buzz about Williams goes beyond conservative neckware and cowboy boots. He has dismissed global warning as a problem and wants a limited role for the Environmental Protection Agency, endorses oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and along both the east and west coasts and favors strict controls on immigration.
“We’ve got to go and drill for American energy wherever we have American energy. We’ve got to drill for it on the west coast, the east coast, the eastern part of the Gulf of Mexico, the Rocky Mountains and oh by the way, drill in ,” Williams said at a Conservative Political Action Conference, according to The Dallas Morning News. “We’ve got to bring the nukes back. We haven’t built a nuclear power plant since 1979.”
Williams entered a field of candidates that includes former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz, former Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams, Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert for the GOP nomination.
Dewhurst is seen as the favorite, but Williams believes he may not be conservative enough to win the nomination. He cites the example of Florida, when former Gov. Charlie Crist failed in his 2010 Senate bid after being seen as too moderate.
“We will have enough money to be competitive in this race,” he told The National Journal. “We saw in the 2010 cycle that the right message, the right messenger and passion among voters and donors will trump raw dollars. We saw that the right messenger with the right message can also generate dollars.”