If you want to witness how the fight for the heart and soul of the Republican Party is taking shape, those of us in West Texas need look no further than right here at home.
State Sen. Kel Seliger is in the midst of what could become a hard-fought GOP primary battle against two men who are trying to outflank the Amarillo lawmaker — on the right.
Seliger is having none of it.
This Facebook image tells me how Sen. Seliger is showing off his own brand of conservatism to voters who might have their doubts about him. I also have noticed a significant change in the tone of his TV ads of late.
There’s an ad showing Seliger talking about his desire to see local control have preference over the running of public education. Then he piles into a pickup and drives away; but then you notice a National Rifle Association sticker on this rear window as he puts the pedal to the metal.
Seliger’s two GOP foes — former Midland Mayor Mike Canon and Amarillo restaurant owner Victor Leal — are getting backed by ultraconservative political action groups. Seliger isn’t relying on that kind of political activism, although Amarillo Matters — a local PAC — has signed on with its own endorsement and efforts to push Seliger across the primary election finish line well ahead of his challengers.
Let me be clear: I want Seliger to return to the Texas Senate, where he has served with clear-headed distinction since 2004.
Seliger’s endorsement from the NRA doesn’t exactly thrill me. I am no fan of the NRA and its hard-core resistance to any kind of legislation that seeks to end the scourge of gun violence. That group’s backing of Seliger, though, doesn’t dissuade me from backing his re-election bid.
What I find fascinating about Seliger is his knowledge of all the issues relating to the sprawling District 31, which runs from the very top of the Panhandle to the Permian Basin, which is about 400 miles — or about a seven-hour drive just one way. As I’ve noted, Seliger — a Borger native — is just as fluent in Permian Basin-speak as he is in Panhandle-speak.
His immediate political goal is to win the GOP primary in March outright. He doesn’t want to end up in a runoff. So, to avoid that possibility Seliger is highlighting his brand of conservative values. It’s not a holier-than-thou brand. Instead it is a level-headed realization of the constituency he represents.
If he is looking for any political advice on how to avoid a runoff, perhaps he should seek it from Potter County Judge Nancy Tanner, who in 2014 managed to win her primary race outright, with four other candidates on the ballot; and to think that Tanner pulled off that feat in her first political campaign.
Let it be said, too, that Sen. Seliger is no novice.