Corpus Christi Caller-Times Editorial: Hilderbran is GOP’s best choice for comptroller

February 17, 2014

CORPUS CHRISTI — The Comptroller is Texas’ elected chief financial officer, paying the bills, managing the bookkeeping, collecting tax and fee revenue and, let’s not forget, making the revenue estimates that determine how much the Legislature can budget for expenses. It’s an office that would be best served by someone who genuinely wants the job and not by someone who sees it as a stepping stone to a higher office.

Unfortunately, no one running for comptroller is likely to admit that he or she just wants it as a platform for running for governor later. We have only the candidate’s word that he wants to be comptroller, has studied it and has an improvement plan. We say “candidate’s,” singular, and use the gender-specific “he” because only one candidate in the contested Republican primary visited us face-to-face to tell us all of this — state Rep. Harvey Hilderbran.

That’s not the only reason we’re endorsing Hilderbran. We’re convinced, by our own observations, that he’s the best-prepared, most capable and most committed Republican candidate. Hilderbran has been Ways and Means Committee chairman the past two regular sessions. To say it’s a plum assignment is an understatement. But more importantly, the Ways and Means chairmanship is an excellent observation deck for studying the comptroller’s handiwork and what it takes to be a comptroller.

He has dealt with the consequences of the current comptroller’s inaccurate estimates and come away with ideas for how to be more accurate. One we especially like is his plan to re-establish an advisory committee of corporate and academic economists, a device used by late, great Comptroller Bob Bullock. It should be reassuring to voters that Hilderbran has been studying Bullock as a role model.

In addition to Hilderbran’s legislative experience, he has valuable real-world free-enterprise experience ranging from tractor dealer to real estate, advertising and telecommunications.

Opponent Raul Torres of Corpus Christi, a one-term state representative primarily by virtue of not being a Democrat in 2010, at least is a certified public accountant. That’s the best we can say about Hilderbran’s primary opponents. State Sen. Glenn Hegar, the most substantial of Hilderbran’s opponents, has a nice ad that convinces us he’s a great dad and husband but says nothing about being comptroller. We also would agree with the statement on Hegar’s website that “no one can touch his pro-life record.” But what were we talking about? Oh, yeah, comptroller. Also running is Debra Medina, who ran for governor in 2010.

The Republican winner will face unopposed Democrat Mike Collier, whose business resume boasts impressive comptroller-relevant experience, including having been a partner in the PricewaterhouseCoopers accounting firm and having started and run a successful oil company. If Hilderbran doesn’t win the Republican nomination, it appears likely that Republicans’ choice in November will be a narrow one between party loyalty and the best person for the job.