Christi Leigh Craddick (born 1970) is the newest member of the Texas Railroad Commission, the state's elected utility regulatory commission. A Republican originally from Midland, Texas, Craddick handily won her seat in the general election held on November 6, 2012. She is the daughter of Texas State Representative Tom Craddick of Midland, who served as the state House Speaker from 2003 to 2009.
A graduate of Midland High School, Craddick obtained her undergraduate degree from the University of Texas and then her Juris Doctor from the University of Texas Law School, both in Austin. Like her parents, she is Roman Catholic.
Craddick's mother, the former Nadine Nayfa, is a native of Sweetwater in Nolan County and of Lebanese descent. She also has a brother, Thomas Russell Craddick, Jr. (born 1973).
Attorney/businesswoman Craddick won her first political race when she defeated fellow Republican Warren Chisum of Pampa, Texas, in her party's runoff election held on July 31, 2012. The contest was contentious because Chisum, a former state representative from the Texas Panhandle and himself a businessman active in the energy industry, had been a key lieutenant of former Speaker Craddick. Chisum also criticized Tom Craddick for having contributed $300,000 to Christi Craddick's campaign..
The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal described Chisum's prospects as "uphill" considering that Craddick raised three times the campaign contributions that Chisum had amassed. She reported to the Texas Ethics Commisson more than $1 million in contributions compared to Chisum's $375,000. Chisum was able to remain competitive, however, by tapping into more than $600,000 that he had raised during his legislative years. Craddick was backed by such wealthy donors as the physician-turned-entrepreneur James Leininger and homebuilder Bob Perry of Houston, no relation to Governor Rick Perry.
Craddick won the runoff held on July 31, 2012, against Chisum, 589,211 votes (59.8 percent) to 396,858 ballots (40.2 percent). Several other Republican candidates for the seat had beeneliminated in the May 29 primary. After she defeated Chisum, Craddick then easily prevailed over the Democrat Dale P. Henry (born 1930), a retired petroleum engineer from Lampasas, who had previously run for the commission. Craddick polled 4,336,499 votes (56.2 percent) to Henry's 3,057,733 (39.6 percent). The remaining 4.2 percent was held by two minor candidates. Craddick ran some 233,000 votes behind the Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, and Henry ran more than 250,000 ballots behind his party's national standard-bearer, U.S. President Barack H. Obama. Hence, some 500,000 Texans who vote in the presidential race did not participate in the contest for railroad commission.
Craddick fills the seat that Elizabeth Ames Jones of San Antonio vacated in February 2012. Jones instead ran unsuccessfully for the District 25 seat in the Texas Senate, a position ultimately won by the conservative Republican physician Donna Campbell, who unseated veteran Senator Jeff Wentworth, a moderate Republican. The interim commissioner, H. S. "Buddy" Garcia, an appointee of Governor Perry, stepped down after the 2012 general election, and Perry named Craddick to fill the remaining days of the original Jones term.
Railroad Commission chairman Barry Smitherman, formerly of Houston, also won election in 2012 but for a two-year term on the panel. He must hence run again in 2014 for a regular six-year term. The third commissioner, David J. Porter of Giddings in Lee County, formerly of Midland, won a full term on the panel in 2010. All commissioners have been Republican since 1995. Two of the three commissioners now have a direct background from the oil-rich Permian Basin in the Midland/Odessa area.
Political scientist Mark Jones of Rice University in Houston attributes Craddick's nomination and eventual election to the "respect" within the Republican Party for her father. Though still a representative since 1969, Tom Craddick lost the Speakership in 2009 to Joe Straus of San Antonio, who prevailed through a coalition of mostly Democrats and sixteen moderate Republican members. Professor Jones said that the respect for Craddick was particularly visible in the primary runoff against Chisum. The result is a rare father-daughter combination in Texas politics.
Ernest Angelo, a former Midland mayor who previously served for twenty years as the Texas Republican National Committeeman, said that Craddick, whom he has known for her entire life -- he and Tom Craddick are neighbors -- gained credibility with large Republican donors. Craddick had earlier raised funds and campaigned for other Republicans. She traveled by highway to meet with conservative and women's groups. According to Angelo, "she showed she will do what it takes to win a state primary. She earned it."
- Christi Craddick. votesmart.org. Retrieved on December 31, 2012.
- Enrique Rangel, "Chisum faces uphill battle for new seat". Lubbock Avalanche Journal. Retrieved on December 31, 2012.
- Republican runoff election results, July 31, 2012. enr.sos.state.tx.us. Retrieved on December 31, 2012.
- Voter Guide. c3.thevoterguide.org. Retrieved on December 31, 2012.
- Texas general election returns, Novembver 6, 2012. elections.sos.state.tx.us. Retrieved on December 31, 2012.
- Gov. Rick Perry has appointed H.S. Buddy Garcia of Austin to the Railroad Commission of Texas for a term to expire at the next general election. Texas Royalty Council, April 12, 2012. Retrieved on May 9, 2012.
- Statement from Christi Craddick on her Appointment by Governor Perry to the Railroad Commission of Texas, December 12, 2012. christicraddick.com. Retrieved on December 31, 2012.
- Christi Craddick's ascension puts family in elite company, December 23, 2012. mywesttexas.com. Retrieved on December 31, 2012.