I don’t care how you slice it, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is playing a game of revenge politics with one of the Legislature’s brighter lights, state Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo.
Patrick handed out committee assignments for the 2019 Legislature and managed to yank Seliger out of his longtime chairmanship of the Senate Higher Education Committee and removed him from the Senate Education Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. He also took Seliger off the Higher Ed Committee altogether, meaning that the veteran Panhandle legislator will have no input on the crafting of legislation involving public education at any level in the state.
To be fair, Patrick did appoint Seliger as chair of the Agriculture Committee, although I don’t recall Seliger demonstrating much of an “ag background” in his long career as a businessman in Amarillo. Still, a key Patrick adviser, told the Texas Tribune that if Seliger is unhappy with his Agriculture Committee chairmanship he could let Patrick know and the lieutenant governor could appoint someone else.
So, what do you suppose that’s all about?
I have an idea. It has to do with Seliger’s longstanding displeasure with the way Patrick runs the Senate. He also declined to endorse Patrick’s re-election effort, as he was the lone Senate Republican to not sign a letter of endorsement on Patrick’s behalf.
Patrick then returned the “favor” by refusing to back Seliger’s bid for re-election this past year. What’s more, according to the Texas Tribune, Patrick’s top political consultant, Allen Blakemore of Houston, managed the campaign of Amarillo businessman Victor Leal, one of two Republicans who lost to Seliger in the 2018 GOP Senate primary this past spring.
I am one Texan who is saddened to see Seliger’s voice removed from the discussion of education policy in the Legislature.
Having said that, I also must declare that I harbor warm personal and professional feelings for Seliger, a man I got to know immediately after moving to the Texas Panhandle in early 1995. I know him to be one of the brightest minds in the Legislature. He has shown a healthy bipartisan streak during his 14 years as a senator, which I consider an essential component of good and smart governance.
If only the guy who runs the Senate, Patrick, could muster up the kind of well-rounded legislative skill that Sen. Seliger has demonstrated.