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Smitherman to announce run for Attorney General

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Chairman Barry Smitherman of the Railroad Commission of Texas in his office, May 31, 2013. Chairman Barry Smitherman of the Railroad Commission of Texas in his office, May 31, 2013.

AUSTIN (THE TEXAS TRIBUNE) - Texas Railroad Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman is running for the 2014 Republican nomination for Attorney General, he confirmed to the Tribune. Public announcements via social media are planned for Monday.

Smitherman told the Tribune he hopes to continue the "great work" of current Attorney General Greg Abbott, who has yet to declare his own political intentions but is widely believed to have his eye on the Governor's Mansion.

"In particular," Smitherman said, "I am focused and interested in continuing to prosecute the federal government, in particular the [Environmental Protection Agency]."

In his capacity as chair of the Railroad Commission, which oversees the state's oil and gas industry, Smitherman has signed on to multiple lawsuits Abbott has filed against the EPA.

Asked about other priorities, the candidate-to-be highlighted second amendment rights, saying he would fight any federal attempts to ban assault rifles or extended ammo clips, and also immigration. "We have got to do everything within the power of the AG's office to stop illegal immigration, and I think there are some things to be done there," he said.

Smitherman grew up near Houston and spent the early part of his career as an investment banker. He later served briefly in the Harris County district attorney's office before being appointed to the Public Utility Commission, which regulates the electric and telephone industries, in 2004 by Gov. Rick Perry. He was appointed to the Railroad Commission in 2011 and was elected to a full term in 2012.

Perry recently vetoed a bill approved by the Legislature that would have required railroad commissioners to resign before running for another office. Smitherman said he intends to serve out the remainder of his term, which ends in 2014, while he runs for Abbott's post. However, should Abbott unexpectedly announce a bid for reelection, Smitherman said he would not run against him.

Other potential candidates are waiting for official word that Abbott is seeking higher office before announcing in the Attorney General's race. For example, state Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, the chairman of the House Higher Education Committee, recently posted on Facebook, "If AG Abbott runs for higher office, I will continue his legacy of fighting President Obama's war on Texas." On Friday, non-yet-candidate Branch announced the early endorsement of former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman.

Others thought to be mulling a run for attorney general include state Sen. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney,  Bexar County District Attorney Susan Reed  and former Texas Supreme Court Justice Harriet O'Neill.

Smitherman declined to comment on the possible competition, saying, "I'm focused on me and my team and the race that we're going to run."

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