The office that Bullock made
Wed June 6, 2012 1:31 pm

There has been a lot of criticism, much of it justified, directed at Comptroller Susan Combs, and some observers would say that it is too much for her to move up to higher office.

What her critics may not realize, however, is that the comptroller’s office has become something of an exalted position in state government. This is in large part due to the abilities of the people who have occupied the office since the green eyeshades days that ended when Bob Bullock arrived in the seventies. Bullock moved up to lieutenant governor and was succeeded by John Sharp. By that time Texas was a Republican state, but Sharp still came oh-so-close to defeating Rick Perry for lieutenant governor in 1998. Carole Strayhorn followed Sharp’s path, challenging Perry as an independent candidate in 2006, but she found herself enmeshed in a four-way race that gave Perry an opening to win with only 39% of the vote.

Now it seems that Combs has set her sights on lieutenant governor in 2014, and a recent UT/Texas Tribune poll showed her with a slight lead over state senator Dan Patrick. Something about the office of comptroller suggests reliability and a steady hand on the adding machine, whether that is, in reality, fact or fancy. Bullock understood this. He changed the image of the comptroller into the chief fiscal officer of the state, and the office still benefits from that visibility. Some of this aura is going to rub off on Combs. A lot of folks are writing her off due to her high-profile problems in office (the data breach, Formula 1), but she has time to repair the damage.

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