TEXAS, USA — A candidate for the Texas Railroad Commission is facing backlash for a campaign video showing the Republican wearing pasties atop an oil pump jack.
Sarah Stogner posted the video to her TikTok account. As of Tuesday afternoon, she had almost 30,000 followers.
"They said I needed money. I have other assets," the Monahans-based lawyer wrote in a tweet featuring the ad.
A campaign flyer reads "Sarah Stogner for Texas Railroad Commissioner" in the center of the screen. The poster does not conceal the seminude candidate.
"My goal is to draw attention to the issues," she later wrote. "Use social media or it will use you."
The San Antonio Express-News previously had endorsed Stogner, a political newcomer, in the Republican primary for railroad commissioner. The paper withdrew its recommendation Tuesday, calling the ad "disgraceful."
"As a political scientist, I've never seen anything like this," said Jon Taylor, a professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio. "I don't even know where to begin."
But the video is working as intended, Taylor says. More than 50,000 people watched the post in its first 48 hours on Twitter.
"There's something to be said for the hucksterism," Taylor added. "We're not in an 'idiocracy' yet, but it sometimes makes you wonder when you see stuff like this."
"You could make the argument that she's not serious," he continued. "If she's not serious, she's not to be taken seriously as a candidate who could hold one of the most important offices in Texas."
The railroad commission is a particularly powerful regulatory board, charged with overseeing Texas's oil and gas industry. Commissioners now face heightened scrutiny after last year's winter storm.
State lawmakers have tasked the board with writing weatherization rules for natural gas suppliers, most responsible for the power grid's collapse in February of 2021.
Still, Texans demonstrate little understanding of the commission's responsibilities and regulators have largely evaded journalistic attention. Elections to fill seats on the commission generate even less buzz.
Stogner conducted her first television interview Tuesday, a day after early voting began.
"I want to put my clothes back on and have a serious conversation," she told KENS 5. "I want to talk about ground water. I want to talk about flaring. I want to talk about winterizing our infrastructure pipelines. But that's boring. It doesn't get clickbait."
Stogner conceded that posing seminude might not be the best way to elevate her platform, but lamented the public's apparent apathy toward the race.
"The fact that people are more upset about me being scantily clad on a pump jack than they are about the actual issues is pretty telling," she said.
"I'm hopeful people won't jump to a conclusion over a 5-second, silly video. (I hope) they'll go and look at 14 years of actual, documented experience and integrity I have," she concluded.
In January, 5% of respondents told University of Houston pollsters they'd vote for Stogner in the Republican primary. Incumbent Wayne Christian polled best, carrying 9% of respondents.
At the time, 74% of voters had yet to decide who'd they vote for. The Hobby School for Public Affairs allowed for a 2.2% margin of error.
Republican candidate Marvin "Sarge" Summers, who polled at 5% in January, died in a car crash on Feb. 8.
Tom Slocum and Dawayne Tipton are also running for the post.