King Ranch Democrat Jay Kleberg runs for land commissioner


AUSTIN – Jay Kleberg, an environmentalist and filmmaker who has been part of the family that has owned the famous King Ranch in South Texas for generations, said Thursday he is running for the state lands commissioner as as Democrat to fight climate change and preserve Texas’ 13 million acres. in the public domain.

“It’s an environmental job and I’ve been doing environmental advocacy and conservation work for the past decade, and the climate change emergency is real,” Kleberg, a sixth generation Texan who has grew up in Kingsville and now lives in Austin, said in an interview.

The office of the land commissioner will be up for grabs in 2022, as two-term Republican George P. Bush steps down to seek the GOP’s appointment as attorney general. State Senator Dawn Buckingham, R-Lakeway, who represents a district stretching from western Travis County to much of the Hill Country, is also running for the seat and has the backing of the former President Donald Trump.

Following:State Senator Dawn Buckingham to run for Texas Land Commissioner

Democratic activist Jinny Suh, who describes herself as a “second generation daughter of Korean immigrants,” announced her candidacy in September.

Kleberg, whose family is the namesake for Kleberg County, said he was raised at the King Ranch and is now a co-founder of a company called Explore Ranches, which offers premium ranches at to rent. He is also the producer of the documentary titled “The river and the wall”, in which he and others explored the 1,200 miles of the Rio Grande on horseback, bicycle and canoe. It premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival 2019.

These experiences, Kleberg said, helped him “learn the value of hard work and stewardship of the land.”

He also lived for a time in El Paso and unsuccessfully ran as a Republican for a seat at Texas House. Kleberg said he ran for the GOP primaries, which he lost because he believed the Democratic stronghold of El Paso needed someone from the Texas majority party to speak for the region at the Capitol.

In his introductory campaign video, Kleberg, 44, spoke about several recent severe weather episodes, including the winter frost in February, which he says were made worse by Earth’s climate change.

“I’m about to say something so simple. Why it’s considered bold in Texas politics, I have no idea. I believe in climate change,” said Kleberg, who is married and has three daughters. “And I believe Texans can handle the truth.”

Suh, a non-practicing lawyer, is one of the founders of Immunize Texas, an advocacy organization that supports pro-vaccine legislation.

Jinny suh

The General Land Office is Texas’ oldest state agency and manages public lands and is responsible for enforcing the Coastal Beach Act, which provides for “free and unrestricted access to Texas beaches” along the Gulf of Mexico. Revenues from energy leases, both fossil and renewable fuels, on public lands raise funds for the State’s Permanent School Fund.

The Land Commissioner also chairs the Veterans Land Commission, which provides low-interest home loans to qualifying military veterans and oversees veteran homes and cemeteries across the state.

Nominations for the March 1 primaries opened on Saturday and ends on December 13. Whoever wins the Democratic nomination for land commissioner is likely to enter the fall campaign as an underdog. The party has been barred from statewide elections since 1998.

John C. Moritz covers Texas government and politics for the USA Today Network in Austin. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JohnnieMo.



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