Get To Know Your Statewide Offices

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

If you want to help pick Democratic and Republican candidates for the November elections, it's time to head to the polls.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Quick quiz: How many state district judges are in Travis County? The answer is right on the tip of your tongue, right?

No, of course it isn’t. It’s a question that almost nobody knows the answer to. If you do, you’re probably either one of those judges or you work in a judge’s office.

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When Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was the state's attorney general, he had a memorable description for his old job.

"My job description has been simplified over the past four years," he said during a speech in 2013. "Because what I do is I go into the office, I sue the federal government and then I go home."

Abbott was purposely oversimplifying his daily work schedule, but defending the state's laws is a key element of the job.

KUT News

When Texans – mostly farmers and ranchers – sat down to write the state Constitution in the 1800s, they didn’t see the need for an elected agriculture commissioner.

That oversight was quickly remedied.

Mose Buchele / KUT

In the brutal final scene from the 2007 movie There Will Be Blood, sociopathic oilman Daniel Plainview meets his rival for the last time. If oil fields are like milkshakes, he says, it pays to have a straw that reaches all the way across the room “and starts to drink your milkshake.”

“I. Drink. Your. Milkshake,” Plainview screams maniacally. “I DRINK IT UP!”

What does that have to do with the Railroad Commission of Texas? More than you might think. That’s because the commission regulates oil and gas in Texas. Ironically, it has nothing to do with railroads.

The state of Texas owns a bunch of land. That's because, in case you didn't know, we used to be our own country and joined the United States without the need for a land grant from the Feds.

All that land needs someone – and an office – to look after it.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The Texas Legislature writes the state budget. The governor signs it into law. But with a single action, the Texas comptroller can kill the entire appropriations process.

But before we get to that, let's start with the real burning issue: How do you pronounce comptroller? Do you pronounce it controller or comptroller?

The name, job description and spelling originally come from England. The full title there is Comptroller General of the Receipt and Issue of Her Majesty's Exchequer and Auditor General of Public Accounts.

Teresa Vieira for KUT News

When I moved to Austin in 2002, one of the first things I did to acclimate myself to Texas was visit the Bullock Texas State History Museum

I remember standing on the second floor, staring at the statue of the man whose name was chiseled onto the side of the building. Then I started to read his history on the plaque at the base of the statue to see just how long he'd been governor or U.S. senator.

That's when I discovered Bob Bullock had only been lieutenant governor.

KUT News

1876. It was a time of rebirth in Texas. Or maybe more precisely – time to get rid of those Reconstruction-era carpetbaggers.

"When the North sent folks down to Texas to govern as governors, Texans felt like these king-like people came down from the North and ran roughshod," says Sherri Greenberg, a clinical professor with the LBJ School of Public Affairs. "So when Texans wrote the Texas Constitution, this very populist document with as much power as possible vested in the people and at the lowest, most local level of government."