Chrysta Castañeda: Im(perfectly) balancing her campaign
Chrysta Castañeda is running for Texas Railroad Commission, a statewide position focused on regulating the oil and gas industry in Texas. Chrysta draws experience from her careers as both a former industrial engineer and an oil and gas lawyer. Remarkably, she is still litigating cases while running a full-time campaign. When asked about how she manages all of her responsibilities, Chrysta compared running for office to rollerblading. “You shift from foot to foot, and at any one time, you are not perfectly balanced… but you can maintain it,” Chrysta said. When balancing her roles as an attorney, a triathlete, and a candidate, Chrysta is successfully “rollerblading” her way to election day this November.
Chrysta was born in Huntsville, Alabama where her father was working in a military missile program. At the age of two, she moved to Kansas where she stayed until she graduated from high school. Chrysta noted that Kansas is a very conservative community yet Chrysta always knew that she was a Democrat. In fact, her grandmother was a Democratic party county chairperson. While her grandmother made a tremendous impact on Chrysta’s political views, Chrysta’s mother also made an impact on her idea of a powerful woman. Chrysta described her mother as a strong, organized, and determined person—mentioning that her mother was the blueprint for who she wanted to be as a woman.
Following graduation from high school, Chrysta went on to attend Harvard. However, after her first two years, Chrysta could not longer afford the tuition rate. She attended the institution at a time when financial aid was not readily available. She eventually finished her undergraduate degree in engineering at Kansas State University. She moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth area where she accepted a job in software engineering.
After working as an engineer for a few years, Chrysta returned to Southern Methodist University where she received her law degree. She went on to become an oil and gas attorney. One of Chrysta’s greatest accomplishments was securing the largest oil dispute verdict in Texas history for T. Boone Pickens. This verdict was one of the largest verdicts in the nation at the time. While securing one of the largest verdicts in history is an accomplishment in itself, Chrysta is also proud about her nonpartisan approach to the trial. T. Boone Pickens was a Republican while Chrysta was (and still is) a Democrat. The 2016 election had occurred during the trial, pitting her client’s political views against her own. Regardless, Chrysta successfully represented her client. She went on to write a book about her experience, called The Last Trial of T. Boone Pickens.
Chrysta’s earliest political memory was the proposal of the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s. She remembers the devastation she felt when the ERA had not passed. She recognized the need for women’s representation in politics and felt compelled to become involved. Initially, Chrysta showed her devotion by voting in every presidential election that she has been eligible to partake in. But in 2012, she took the next step when she ran for office.
In 2012, Chrysta ran for Texas Congressional District 33. At the time, she was a founding board member for IGNITE, a nonprofit dedicated to building political ambition in young women. In the midst of building IGNITE in Texas, CD33 was created based on the 2010 census redistricting, and nine men immediately filed to run for the position. She felt it was critical to represent women’s voices, especially given her involvement with IGNITE, so she filed to run. Though she did not win, it was because of her Congressional campaign that the Texas Democratic Party recruited her to run for the Texas Railroad Commission.
As a Railroad Commissioner, Chrysta would focus on enforcing regulations that would prevent massive expulsion of greenhouse gases. Natural gas in its raw form is a greenhouse gas that is eighty times more potent than carbon dioxide. Chrysta does not believe that the current Railroad Commissioners are properly enforcing greenhouse gas regulations. Furthermore, Chrysta would use her role to promote the availability and cleanliness of water resources. Right now, millions of gallons of freshwater are being used to frack oil resources (fracking is the process where water is pumped into the ground at a high pressure rate to cause fissures in rocks holding oil and gas deposits so that the oil and gas can be extracted). She wants to focus on water reuse and reclamation to reduced the impact of fracking.
When asked about resources for support and guidance, Chrysta relies heavily on her family. She leans on her husband particularly for insight. Chrysta also relieves stress by competing in triathlons (fun fact: Chrysta competed in a triathlon on the morning of her interview with us). She notes that it is critical to have some form of mental relief from the campaign—which can include eighteen hour days at times. Above all, Chrysta relies on support from voters and supporters. She wanted to impress this message upon young folks: “when young people vote on November 3rd, you will change the world. Your vote changes the world.”
To learn more about Chrysta’s campaign, please visit www.chrystafortexas.com.