Attorney and fifth-generation cattleman Eric Opiela said he is the only candidate with well-rounded experience to be an effective Texas Agriculture Commissioner.
On Wednesday, Opiela, 35, of Karnes City, stopped by the Tyler Morning Telegraph to pitch his qualifications and candidacy during a Tyler fundraising stop.
Opiela said of the five candidates running for the statewide office to replace Todd Staples, who is running for lieutenant governor, he has the most experience to fight for Texans’ rights.
“One (candidate) is a rancher, two are former state representatives and the other is a perennial candidate,” he said. “I’m the only candidate with ranching experience, legislative experience and experience fighting for landowners’ property and water rights.”
Opiela said he has a working understanding of federal tactics, such as the use of endangered species classifications and water capture regulations, which can benefit the state and Texans.
“The role of government is to protect life, liberty and property rights and then get out of the way,” he said.
Water availability will be a top focus, he said, because it affects everyone, from rural farmers and industry to residential taps. The expansion of the state’s water capacity will affect landowners, he added.
Opiela said the legislature’s approval of $2 billion to help expedite water projects is only a step toward solving the state’s long-term water needs. He said developing and managing a comprehensive program will best meet demands.
He said he would be in favor of landowners receiving royalties for allowing their land to be flooded for construction of reservoirs. He argues it would cost less to pay landowners royalties than lump sums or to proceed with costly eminent domain proceedings.
Opiela said his family’s negative experience with the eminent domain process during construction of a pipeline led him to seek a legal career.
“It’s the fairest and best thing to do for landowners and taxpayers,” he said. “You compensate the landowner for the land they would no longer be profiting from and you cut out a lot of eminent domain litigation that costs taxpayers.”
Opiela serves as chairman of the Eminent Domain Committee of South Texans’ Property Rights Association. He served as the Texas Republican Party executive director from 2008 to 2009.
Opiela faces former state Rep. Tommy Merritt, R-Longview, ran-cher and Uvalde mayor J. Allen Carnes, former state Rep. Sid Miller and Joe Cotton in the March 4 Republican primary.