Calling all bean counters

Roll this one around for a moment: Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.

Doesn’t sound like too sexy of a political office, correct? It can be. Several Republicans and perhaps one Democrat seem to think it’s an office worth seeking.

And why not? It can be a stepping stone to bigger things.

Comptroller Susan Combs, a Republican (as if that’s a big surprise), decided not to seek another term as comptroller. Her absence from the 2014 GOP primary ballot has brought out a small and perhaps gathering crowd of potential successors.

The Texas Tribune reports that when Carole Keeton Rylander Strayhorn walked away in 2006 to run for governor, no such crowd of candidates emerged in her wake.

Combs’s departure is different.

Look at it this way, the office of comptroller — who, in effect, is the state’s bean counter in chief — has been a launching pad recently for a couple of notable Texas politicians. The late — and legendary — Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, served as comptroller before becoming state attorney general and then lieutenant governor; Texas A&M University Chancellor John Sharp served as comptroller before launching two unsuccessful bids to become lieutenant governor.

Strayhorn thought it would lead to a higher office for her as well, but by my reckoning she didn’t wear her political notoriety as gracefully as some others who preceded her in that office.

The comptroller’s main job is to ensure the state meets its budget requirements. The comptroller issues fiscal projections that enable the Legislature to budget state money for the next two years. It can be a hum-drum job, but it also can serve as a platform for budget policy ideas.

The race for comptroller might not get the blood pumping furiously. It’ll be worth waiting to see who emerges next year from the political battlefield and how that individual handles a really big job.

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