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GOP challenger for Railroad Commission gets major cash infusion ahead of runoff election

Campaign website

With the Republican primary runoff election for Railroad commissioner nearing the final stretch, a candidate who had been refusing campaign contributions accepted a cash infusion of over $1.5 million.

Sarah Stogner says she took the money from a rich friend because she thinks what started as a statement candidacy has an actual chance of winning the nomination. The Railroad Commission regulates Texas' oil and gas industry.

So far, Stogner has built her campaign on viral videos, and meet-and-greets with local Republican groups. Her most famous stunt,a nearly naked ride on a West Texas pump jack, provoked cheers and gasps among Texas political-types, but brought an unusual amount of attention to her campaign and the office she seeks.

That political strategy, along with her message that the Railroad Commission is captured by the interests of the oil and gas industry it regulates, was enough to bring her to a runoff against Commission Chair Wayne Christian. Now, Stogner believes she is within striking distance of winning.

She says the money donated by Ashley Watt, a Texas rancher, will pay for ads to increase her name recognition.

“It's good to have friends with ‘f- - - you money.’Stogner told KUT.

In the interview, Stogner described the contribution as amounting to $2 million. Filings with the Texas Ethics Commission put it at around $1.6 million.

Her opponent boasts endorsements from major Republican politicians like Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Christian has about $341,000 cash on hand, having already spent $662,000 this election cycle, much of it from contributions linked to the oil and gas industry.

Christian did not respond to a request for an interview.

Copyright 2022 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.

Mose Buchele is the Austin-based broadcast reporter for KUT's NPR partnership StateImpact Texas . He has been on staff at KUT 90.5 since 2009, covering local and state issues. Mose has also worked as a blogger on politics and an education reporter at his hometown paper in Western Massachusetts. He holds masters degrees in Latin American Studies and Journalism from UT Austin.