As a businessman, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst claimed in a recent interview in Spanish, he knows how to keep Texas’ job growth going.
“Soy un hombre de negocios, el único official estatal quién es un hombre de negocios,” he said on the Houston Univision 45 show “Conexión Texas” — “I am a businessman, the only state official who is a businessman.”
Dewhurst, whose fluency in Spanish dates to his 1970-74 Central Intelligence Agency posting in Bolivia, phrased the same claim in a tighter way in another part of the interview, saying he is the only state elected official who is a businessman: “Yo soy el único hombre de negocios eligido estatal.”
Currently running to keep his job as lieutenant governor, a post he’s held since 2003, Dewhurst makes a similar statement on his campaign website, saying he’s “the only businessman elected to statewide office.” D magazine quoted Dewhurst in a 2011 blog post as saying, “Out of 29 elected state officials, I’m the only traditional businessman.”
Dewhurst built a multimillion-dollar fortune as an energy entrepreneur and investor in Houston after his service in the Air Force and CIA.
Dewhurst campaign spokesman Travis Considine told us that a June 29 quotation in a Dallas Morning News news blog post represented what Dewhurst “typically says in English”: “I’m the only traditional businessperson elected statewide.”
But that’s not what he said in the Spanish interview. According to Spanish-English dictionaries and consultation with our colleagues at the American-Statesman’s weekly Spanish newspaper, ¡Ahora Sí!, the adjective “estatal” would translate simply as “state.”
So, we were curious if Dewhurst could rightly claim to be “the only state official who is a businessman.”
Considine told us Dewhurst was referring to Gov. Rick Perry, Attorney General Greg Abbott, Comptroller Susan Combs, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, whose occupations Considine said were, respectively, rancher, lawyer, rancher, retired military and rancher.
But we found at least one person with traditional business experience among those top executive officeholders elected statewide.
Staples describes himself as a “former rancher and businessman” on his campaign website. Staples’ campaign manager, Cody McGregor, told us that Staples started and owned a real estate firm from 1986 until 2007, was part owner of a plant nursery and started and ran a cattle-raising operation.
In all, the Texas secretary of state’s office lists 27 statewide elected positions (not counting the state’s two U.S. senators), and the Texas Legislature has 31 senators and 150 representatives, who are members of state government and make state law even though they are elected from regions rather than statewide.
Among the 27 state officials elected statewide, we spotted an accountant and an investment banker.
Railroad Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman, a candidate for attorney general, was an investment banker and briefly a prosecutor in the Harris County district attorney’s office. His colleagues are Christi Craddick, described in her biographical entry on the commission’s website and Statesman stories as an oil and gas lawyer and former adviser to her father, then-House Speaker Tom Craddick; and David Porter, an accountant whose biographical entry says he “built a successful small business around his CPA practice.”
Meanwhile, the Senate’s official guide to senators and the House chief clerk’s office list of representatives’ biographical data give business as an occupation for dozens of members of the Legislature. Others are listed more specifically as owning companies, restaurants, agencies or firms. Here, too, “lawyer” is a common occupation, but there are also engineers, contractors, educators, insurance agents, ranchers and doctors.
Our ruling: Dewhurst said he’s “el único official estatal quién es un hombre de negocios.”
This claim falls down without going beyond the five executive offices that his spokesman said Dewhurst was referring to. Past that, the claim is incorrect in a common-sensical way, if one accepts, as we do, that legislators are elected state officials as well. Dozens of legislators are in business.
Dewhurst isn’t “único” in this regard. We rate his statement as False.
Statement: “Soy … el único official estatal quién es un hombre de negocios.”