Political party: Republican
Did not respond
Political party: Democratic
Age as of November 8, 2022: 54
Campaign website: hays4ag.com
Education: UT-Austin, BA Humanities (1992); Georgetown University. Law Center, J.D. (1996)
Have you ever been a candidate in an election? (Please list former offices searched)
Dallas County Democratic Chairman (2002)
Please list the highlights of your civic engagement:
Member, International Cannabis Bar Association
Co-Founder, Former Chief Legal Officer and Member of the Legal Advisory Board, Jane’s Due Process, Inc.
Equality Texas Foundation, Board Member (2019)
Beto O’Rourke for the Texas Senate/Democratic Party, Voter Protection Project (2018)
Board Member, Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life, Advisory Board
Committee for a Qualified Judiciary, Dallas, Texas (2005-2012)
Who are the top three contributors to your campaign?
Erin Fonté, Village Farms LP, Annie’s List and Don Henley (tied)
What is the most important distinction between you and your opponent(s)?
Ethics, and I’ll do the job. I’m not here to set up a partisan agenda or start petty fights. My opponent, Sid Miller, is an outcast in his own party. The Republican-dominated Texas legislature is far more likely to trust me than Sid. I can work with anyone by bringing honesty and skill to the table — skills that have earned the endorsement of three former Texas Supreme Court justices who all served as Republicans.
My opponent has been through an assortment of scandals since taking office, like using a state plane to get to personal errands, like getting shot for back pain. You can see a summary of its many ethical shortcomings at https://www.hays4ag.com/sids-sins/. I also understand how to get things done within government. The Ag Commissioner must maintain a good relationship with the Legislative Assembly and the federal government to marshal resources for programs such as school meals, meals on wheels and the state Office of Rural Health.
What are the three biggest problems in this race?
1. The corruption and scandal surrounding Sid Miller, such as the indictment of his political consultant for trying to sell $100 hemp licenses for tens of thousands of dollars.
2. Rural health care and economic development, including increased support for rural hospitals
3. Legalize Cannabis – in a smart, measured, and robust way, it gets it right – unlike Oklahoma or California.
How would you approach trade with Mexico as Commissioner for Agriculture?
Primero, hablo español. Entonces, by forging partnerships, particularly in the field along the border. Where Texas once enjoyed an elastic labor force given seasonal help from Mexican workers, we are now importing food from Mexico, rather than growing it ourselves, farmers on the border turning to import. This change has been exacerbated by the refusal to recognize Texas’ needs for immigrant labor, whether in the agricultural sector or in other areas of the economy. As Agricultural Commissioner, I will work to identify infrastructure bottlenecks and resources to address them so Texas agricultural producers can find markets in Mexico rather than lose out due to labor market imbalance. and the worsening of our trade deficit.
Should Texas relax its marijuana laws? Would you support the legalization of marijuana for recreational and/or medical use? As Commissioner of Agriculture, if marijuana were legalized, what would be your role in overseeing its production given that it is a crop and how would you approach this task?
Yes, we should reform the laws, including legalizing both medical and recreational use, where my opponent only wants to develop medical cannabis. If we simply decriminalize without legalizing (i.e. regulating), you open the door to the black market. As a cannabis attorney, I’ve studied other states’ laws and how they pass or fail. I would work with the Texas Legislature to craft strong laws to provide safeguards for public health and safety while providing economic opportunity for farmers and entrepreneurs. You can read my detailed critique of the current Texas law and roadmap for reform at https://www.hays4ag.com/cannabis/.
The Agricultural Commission should regulate the cultivation of cannabis given the ministry’s expertise in pesticide regulation. To summarize the details posted on my website, I would approach regulation with a focus on public health and safety while maximizing business opportunities for Texans.
How will you work to ensure that children, regardless of economic status, have access to healthy school meals?
One of the first things Sid did in office was “forgive” cupcakes and other fatty, high-sugar foods as a joke, then bring them back to school cafeterias. I will work to create incentives for school districts to get their food locally sourced, provide healthy options for kids, and get kids interested in farming. We need to make sure kids in Texas learn how farming works, where their food comes from, and how it’s made – and show those in urban and suburban areas that growing food is for city kids, too. . Children should be fed regardless of their economic status. Hungry children cannot concentrate and therefore cannot learn. Helping them become productive members of society starts with a good meal.
What most voters probably don’t know about the Texas Department of Agriculture that you think they should?
That the State Office of Rural Health is at TDA, as well as rural economic development efforts. Both offices are underutilized by the incumbent. In fact, he wanted to cut funding for rural hospitals and meals on wheels during the pandemic.
As Agriculture Commissioner, how would you promote transparency within the Texas Department of Agriculture?
By setting an ethical example with my leadership above all else. Compared to the holder, it’s a pretty low bar but I plan to exceed it 100 times. If elected, I will shine a light on the operations of the Agricultural Commission, starting with simple things like clear information on the website about who to call if you have a problem with a particular program and expanding reporting on how funds are allocated and distributed and what measurable returns we get for this investment.