Cleburne Times-Review, Cleburne, TX

December 18, 2013

Cleburne man running for agriculture commissioner

By Tammye Nash/reporter3@trcle.com

— Johnson County cattle farmer Jim Hogan is one of three Democrats filed to run for Texas agriculture commissioner. The other two Democrats are Kinky Friedman of Austin and Hugh Asa Fitzsimons III of Carrizo Springs.

But the race to replace incumbent Todd Staples, a Republican who is running for Texas lieutenant governor, is crowded. Five Republicans will be facing off against each other in the GOP primary, and there is one Green Party candidate and two Libertarians in the race.

But Hogan said this week, out of all the candidates in the race, he is the only one ready and willing to work at the job of agriculture commissioner, not just hold the office.

“I have been studying this office for six years” in preparation for running for ag commissioner, Hogan said. “You’ve got to be prepared if you’re going to do a job. You’ve got to know what you’re talking about.”

Listing off the names of Deputy Commissioner Drew DeBerry and Chief of Staff Shannon Rusing, Hogan said, “Those are the ones who actually do the work. If you’re elected agriculture commissioner and really want to do a good job, then those are the ones you need to get to know and they are the ones you need to listen to. They have been there the longest and they know what’s going on.”

Hogan said he would also travel to each of the office’s regional divisions and field offices, getting to know the staff at each one and listening to their ideas and advice.

“I would work with the staff, not just run over them,” he said.

Hogan said he believes most people don’t understand what the Texas Department of Agriculture does and how it affects their lives.

“It’s about food and about the people who provide it,” Hogan said. “But it’s not just about the farmers and the ranchers. It’s about you. It’s about your food and where it comes from.”

Hogan said most people don’t think about where their food comes from, beyond their local grocery story. He said much of the food on the grocery store shelves is shipping in from other states, even other countries, and he would like to see Texans buying and eating more Texas-produced foods.

Hogan said he would also like to see more farmers and ranchers in the older generation reaching out to young farmers, helping them get started.

Hogan said he believes the state must find new sources of water, and suggested piping in water from the Gulf of Mexico and using desalination plants to make the water usable.

He said he knows that it will be hard to win a statewide race with limited funds, and even harder to defeat a Republican. But he said he believes that anyone willing to listen to what he has to say will vote for him.

Hogan, 63, said he was born in Fort Worth to Ben and Elsie Hogan, and spent his early school years in Lake Worth before graduating from Mansfield High School in 1969. He said his father was a cattle trader and that both of his brothers went into the dairy business, as did he, after school.

Hogan started his own dairy farm in 1973, operating it successfully until 2005 when he switched to a cow-and-calf operation. Now, he said, on his farm on County Road 423, he has mostly Angus cow-and-calf pairs, with some Holstein heifers. He also has some milk goats and some horses, he said.

Hogan said his wife, Tracy, died of cancer in August 2010. He has two daughters: Lydia is studying agricultural at Texas A&M-Commerce and Kendall, who has an associate’s degree, is working in Cleburne schools as a substitute teacher while she decides what further degree she wants to pursue.

“I think of myself as being successful, not so much because I own some land, but because I’ve got a good family,” Hogan said. “People around here know me. They have dealt with me. Will they vote? That’s the question.

“I am not going to make any big promises and I am not going to tell you a bunch of good stuff about myself. Because it’s you aren’t what you think you are. You are what others think you are. I am just saying I am on the ballot, and I am giving you a choice.”

Friedman, 69, has the most name recognition of the three Democrats. The country music singer, author and former candidate for Texas governor is running on a platform of legalizing marijuana for medical and personal use and bringing back hemp as a cash crop, according to his campaign website. Friedman is also calling for more investment in harvesting water. He ran for governor in 2006 and for ag commissioner in 2010.

Fitzsimons owns Thunderheart Bison and is a commissioner for the Wintergarden Water Conservation District. He does not have a campaign website yet. But in testimony delivered at the Safe Climate Caucus Forum in September, Fitzsimons described himself as a former school teacher who moved back to his family’s ranch in 1998. He also spoke against allowing oil and gas companies unrestricted access to the state’s water aquifers for the purpose of fracking.

The Texas primary elections will be held March 4. Early voting for the primaries begins Feb. 18.