Former state GOP chair announces bid for governor

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Tom Pauken, a former Reagan Administration agency head and state Republican Party chairman, has announced he will run for Texas governor in the 2014 Republican Primary.

Pauken is a Texas native and lives in Port Aransas near Corpus Cristi with his wife, Ida.

He served as chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission since 2008, stepping down from that position earlier this month.

As commission chairman, Pauken said he traveled the state extensively and determined there needs to be more opportunities for vocational education at the high school and post-secondary school levels.

If elected, Pauken said he will work to reform education.

"We really have a Texas educational system with teaching to the test that pushes everyone to the university," Pauken said in a phone interview Tuesday with The Pampa News.  "There needs to be reform of education with multiple pathways to a high school diploma — a college pathway or a career in technical education."

Pauken said there is a shortage of skilled workers in Texas and quoted some statistics: "The average age of a plumber is 56. The average age of a welder is 55 and a stonemasonry (worker) is 69."

The oil and gas industries in the Panhandle are being impacted by the skilled worker shortage, he said.

"The biggest problem the oil and gas companies tell me is the lack of skilled workers," he said. "They are having to pay a very high price and are poaching from other companies. We have a huge problem in terms of the number of commercial truck drivers."

Related to the skilled worker shortage is the problem of young people getting involved with illegal drugs, he said.

"This is the elephant in the room nobody wants to talk about," Pauken said. "We need to address this and let young people know the consequences of getting involved in the drug culture."

He used an example of a company who had recruited 100 people to train as commercial drivers, but when there were given drug tests, half of them failed, he said.

"We need to get the message out like in the Reagan Administration with Nancy Reagan’s Just Say No to Drugs campaign," he said. "Otherwise, these young people will be stuck with minimum-wage jobs."

In a press release, Pauken said he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1967 and served as a military intelligence officer in Vietnam. He was on President Ronald Reagan’s White House staff, heading a federal agency known as ACTION where he cut spending by 25 percent while initiating the Vietnam Veterans Leadership Program. He also said he implemented the Just Say No to Drugs campaign.

Pauken was elected Republican state chairman in 1994, and stated in his campaign announcement he helped build a Republican majority from the grassroots.

On Tuesday, Pauken said he was in Dallas taping for a TV news segment that will be broadcast Sunday.

The candidate said he plans to visit the Panhandle extensively between now and the Republican primary next March.

Pauken concluded the interview stating that Texas is the No. 1 place in the country to do business, but we can't rest on our laurels.

"I want to put together a team of political outsiders and bring them to Austin," he said.

Tom PaukenFile photo

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