Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller has been the consummate Texas Republican official, as both a hyper conservative state leader, and an online troll who cozied up to Donald Trump. Miller is up for reelection in 2022, but it seems plausible he may be on the verge of primarying a fellow statewide-elected Republican.
In a widely shared New York Times Magazine story about the Texas Republican Party, Miller does nothing to quell speculation that he might be looking to change offices. Sitting alongside his wife Debra, he began the interview by telling reporter Elaina Plott what he would do as Governor. He even threw some Texas Republican shade at Greg Abbott, claiming the Governor wasn’t a big fan of Donald Trump.
It’s not exactly clear what exactly is Miller’s strategy, or even if he has one. Still, it might be worthwhile to revisit some of the key events that have led Miller to this point.
Miller was elected as a state representative from Central Texas in 2000, knocking out a longtime Democratic incumbent. He quickly became a champion for several conservative causes. In 2011 he authored a bill, which was eventually passed, that required a woman to have a sonogram and “listen to a description of the fetus” before having an abortion.
In 2012, Miller lost his seat when J.D. Sheffield defeated him in a runoff election. With the 2014 election around the corner, Miller tossed his cowboy hat into the ring for Agriculture Commissioner and finished first in a five-way primary. He went on to win in the runoff election, and later the general election. Ted Nugent, a onetime rocker now known for conspiracy theories and racist comments, served as treasurer and co-chairman of his campaign.
Miller seemed a natural fit for the position of Agriculture Commissioner given his stint as a professional rodeo cowboy with a handful of titles. The Texas Department of Agriculture was formed by the Texas Legislature in 1907. According to their website, the agency’s objectives are “to promote production agriculture, consumer protection, economic development and healthy living.”
A few weeks into his tenure, Miller was already embroiled in controversy thanks to a trip paid by Texas taxpayers to Jackson, Mississippi for the National Dixie Rodeo. At the time, Miller argued he was promoting Texas vendors, though it did not appear Miller was there in his capacity as Agriculture Commissioner. Ultimately, the Texas Ethics Commission fined him $500 for the trip in 2018.
Miller also faced criticism for another taxpayer-funded trip, this one to Oklahoma. Miller claimed on social media that he was in Oklahoma to meet with local lawmakers. The officials in the photos on social media pages denied there was any formal meeting. Miller’s true purpose for visiting Oklahoma allegedly concerned a “Jesus shot,” a so-called medical injection that supposedly takes away pain. Miller admitted to receiving the shot, and reimbursed the state for his expenses on the trip according to reporting from the Houston Chronicle.
As he settled into the role of Agriculture Commissioner, Miller began ratcheting up his social media presence. His Facebook page in particular has been called a “cesspool of racism and idiocy” by Reform Austin. One example was the time he seemingly called for the bombing of the Muslim world (which he did delete). Then there was his post calling drag queen story hour “child abuse.”
Scanning Miller’s Facebook page recently, it’s filled with plenty of tributes to Donald Trump, and insults to Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and Democrats in general. Miller also has several laudatory posts dedicated to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
After DeSantis announced the lifting of all COVID-19 restrictions in Florida last week, Miller posted in praise of the state and DeSantis. “While Texas leaders have said our state is back open and that it’s business as usual in the Lone Star State – it is anything but! In fact, you still are required to have a COVID-19 test before participating in any Texas Senate session, committee hearing, or to even visit your State Senator in their office. Texas must follow Florida’s lead and I call upon Governor Abbott to suspend any COVID-19 restrictions imposed by local or county officials,” wrote Miller.
Miller’s ire over COVID-19 protocols at the Texas Capitol even prompted a lawsuit against Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and the entire Texas State Senate. Miller, with the help of Republican activist Dr. Stephen Hotze, filed their suit claiming a COVID-19 test, required to visit the senate gallery, was a violation of the Texas Constitution and The Open Meetings Act. The lawsuit was unsuccessful as a judge dismissed it a few days ago.
According to the New York Times Magazine story, Miller claims that he is constantly being asked to reassess his political situation. “I’ve had five people stop me here, and this is not even a political event. Just pulled me off the side and said, we really appreciate what you’re doing, and we hope you run for governor, and hang in there,” he told Plott.
There’s no shortage of rightwing donors, including Hotze, that would seem to relish the idea of replacing Abbott with someone like Miller. And there is always the Trump factor. On April 28, Miller posted on Facebook that he was at Mar-A-Lago for meetings. “There are big things on the horizon and this is a critically important time for our state and nation,” he wrote.
As he considers whether or not to take the plunge on primarying Abbott, Miller is already ceding ground to other primary challengers, most notably former state senator Don Huffines. And if he is perhaps interested in challenging Lt. Gov Dan Patrick he will likely not have the support of Donald Trump who just released a full-throttled endorsement for Patrick’s reelection.
For now, Miller remains an active litigant. In his personal capacity, Miller sued the Biden administration over a provision in the American Rescue Plan that he alleges discriminates “against white farmers and ranchers.” Miller’s counsel in the lawsuit is America First Legal, which was founded by former Trump senior advisor Stephen Miller.
One dark cloud hovers over Sid Miller. In his next campaign he will be without one of his top political consultants and aides, Todd Smith, who was recently arrested for selling access to hemp licenses.
Photo: SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP via Getty Images