Can This Guy Fill Congressman Mike Conaway's Shoes?

SAN ANGELO, TX — State Rep. Brooks Landgraf of Odessa at 38 years old is young, he’s smart, and he’s already made his mark for his district in the Texas House since being elected to serve there in 2015. This year’s session was his third, and he’s been elected three times as a Republican. His signature accomplishment is shepherding through significant funding—huge increases — for not only Odessa’s Texas Department of Transportation but also more funding for the San Angelo TxDOT district.

He said funding for rural west Texas roads is approaching the highest levels in years — in all, around $1.9 billion over two years. That large number includes $600 million in extra state money — or in budget-speak, that money is over and above the two-year highway funding formula set at the end of 2019’s legislature.

Road funding favors the big cities in Texas because of the highway funding formula is based on lanes, not miles. Many of the miles of west Texas highways are two or four lanes that can’t compete with a 12-lane freeway in the Dallas, Houston or I-35 corridor regions for TxDOT money.

“The roads out here have become a really dangerous situation,” Landgraf said. “The traffic has outgrown the infrastructure.” Many of the backroads west of Odessa were built during the post-WWII years as farm-to-market roads. They weren’t stressed to handle 75,000-pound water trucks used to deliver chemicals to frack oil wells in the Permian Basin.

“You are worried if you’re going to get to work alive when the most dangerous part of your job is getting to and from work,” Landgraf said.

The extra funding Landgraf secured is considered a down payment towards making the roadways safer in rural west Texas.

The extra highway funding was part of a larger legislative package Landgraf, who is Vice Chair of the House Transportation Committee, and Midland’s State Rep. Tom Craddick created called “Generate Recurring Oil Wealth for Texas,” or GROW Texas. The State’s coffers get filled with taxes paid from oil and gas production in west Texas. But that revenue is in jeopardy.

In the 2020-21 Biennial Revenue Estimate, State of Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar stated that the "total Texas oil production is expected to increase at slower rates through 2021 due to infrastructure bottlenecks in the Permian Basin."

By tying the idea that State revenue is being stifled by deteriorating or lack of transportation infrastructure in west Texas where the oil fields are, he was able to cobble together a coalition of Republicans and Democrats to pass HJR 82, the GROW Texas legislation, by an overwhelming majority of 121-13 in the Texas House.

He’s not done. “I still have unfinished business in the [Texas] House,” Landgraf said.

However, with Congressman Mike Conaway’s announcement that he will not seek another term in office, Landgraf, an Odessa Permian High School alum, said he is contemplating a run for Conaway’s 11th Congressional District seat in the U.S. House. Landgraf graduated cum laude from Texas A&M and earned his law degree from St. Mary’s School of Law in San Antonio.

Landgraf was upfront about his contemplation of running for Conaway’s seat. He said he will announce his intentions “within weeks” after he prayerfully contemplates the decision with his wife, Shelby, a former news anchor for a Midland TV station.

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Above: Brooks and Shelby Landgraf and Hollis Rose, their daughter. (Brooks Landgraf)

He said he has been encouraged to run by people all over the region, including by leaders in San Angelo. Landgraf has ties to the San Angelo area. His grandmother lives here along with many of his extended family. He said he spent Christmas holidays in San Angelo when growing up.

“Hopefully God will put the answer in my heart,” he said. “I will try to make a decision in a couple of weeks. Even if it’s not me, there’s going to be some opportunities too find the right person to fill Conaway’s shoes.”

What can Landgraf bring to the U.S. Congress? During a press conference in the middle of the last session, he lamented that of every dollar Texas sends to the federal government for highway funding through fuel taxes, only 95 cents of it comes back to build Texas highways. “That means a nickel of every dollar we send to Washington is funding some other state’s highways.”

J. Ross Lacy of Midland announced his candidacy for Conaway’s congressional seat yesterday. Aubrey Mayberry, a Republican Party precinct chair from Odessa, is also reported to be contemplating a run for the seat.

Landgraf was in San Angelo Thursday for the West Texas Legislative Summit where we recorded the video interview above.

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