Category Archives: State news

Senate race starting to get … nasty

Here come the grenades.

They’re being lobbed at Texas state Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, who is facing a GOP primary challenge from former Midland Mayor Mike Canon and Amarillo restaurant owner Victor Leal.

The live ammo is being tossed by Leal, who has approved a TV ad that accuses Seliger of being “liberal” and “corrupt.” Leal puts the two words together — in that order — at the end of his ad, which seems to equate liberal political views with corruption.

Seliger, meanwhile, is running hard on his own conservative credentials, proclaiming himself to be pro-local control, pro-life and pro-National Rifle Association.

As someone who plans to vote quite soon — my wife and I will be unavailable to vote on March 6, which is primary Election Day — I am taking a keener-than-usual interest in this race.

Just maybe Leal ought to take a deep breath before he airs this ad too many more times. I happen to remember the first time Leal ran for a legislative seat. It was in 2010. He wanted to succeed David Swinford, who retired from his House District 87 seat.

But here’s the deal: Leal had resided for many years in Randall County, which is not part of District 87. He then rented a house in Potter County, which falls within the legislative boundary. Questions arose about whether Leal was residing in the Potter County house.

I will not divulge whether I believe Leal actually lived in that Potter County residence. However, questions surrounding that messy residence matter can — and occasionally do — find their way back to the front burner.

Especially when politicians toss around words such as “corrupt.”

Texas GOP is at war with itself

I never have thought of Greg Abbott of being such an intraparty back-stabber.

But what the heck. The Texas governor is now in open political warfare with a fellow Republican, state Rep. Sarah Davis. He has been running attack ads against Davis, who in turn said she cannot commit to voting for Abbott in the upcoming March Republican primary.

Davis chairs the Texas House General Investigating and Ethics Committee. She criticized Abbott for failing to consider ethics reform in a special session this past summer. Abbott took it personally, I guess.

So he’s been campaigning against Davis, R-West University Place.

This is a rare event. Governors are not known generally as waging battle against politicians from their party. Abbott has tossed that tradition aside by endorsing Davis’s opponent in the GOP primary, Susanna Dokupil.

The anti-Davis ads accuse the incumbent lawmaker of opposing Hurricane Harvey relief and supporting late-term abortions.

This is brutal, yes?

I was out of daily journalism when Greg Abbott was first elected governor. I knew him when he was running for the Texas Supreme Court and later for state attorney general. I always found him to be a cordial gentleman.

He is showing another side of himself as he runs for re-election as governor. To be candid, it’s rather unflattering.

Same song, second verse in Senate District 31

Kel Seliger is running as a conservative West Texan.

He’s trying to avoid being outflanked on his right by a former foe who’s returning for yet another run at the veteran Texas state senator. Seliger also faces another interesting opponent … who hails from Seliger’s own end of the sprawling Senate district.

It’s the same song, second verse for Seliger. This time, though, he is making it crystal clear that he considers himself to be as conservative as his opponents.

I’ve known Seliger for as long as I have lived in Amarillo. That would be 23-plus years. He was the city’s mayor when I assumed my post as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News. He did a sound, solid — if not spectacular — job as mayor. Then he left office, was a civilian for a time and then he ran for the Senate after the late Teel Bivins was tapped in 2004 by President Bush to become the U.S. ambassador to Sweden.

What I find so fascinating about Seliger’s latest re-election bid are the visuals he is employing in his TV ads. One of them shows Seliger driving away in his pickup truck with two stickers in the rear window: “NRA” and one that declares Seliger to be “100 percent pro-life.”

He’s kind of in our face regarding his conservatism, yes?

Mike Canon is one of Seliger’s foes. Canon ran against Seliger in 2014. He contended four years ago that Seliger wasn’t conservative enough. Canon is a favorite of the Texas version of the TEA Party. He speaks in platitudes and cliches. He did it in 2014 and is doing so again this time.

Seliger isn’t responding to Canon directly. Instead he merely is reminding us of his commitment to the Second Amendment, his opposition to abortion and his insistence that local control of school money is more important than ceding that control to the state.

Again … conservative principles.

Oh, but now we have Victor Leal of Amarillo in the hunt. Leal also is running as a conservative. Leal runs a popular Amarillo restaurant. He once served as Muleshoe mayor and in 2010 ran for the Texas House District 87 seat vacated by David Swinford; Leal lost to Four Price.

What makes me scratch my head is whether Leal is running merely to muddy this race up a bit. I once asked him whether he intended to win. He said yes, absolutely. He’s in it to win it.

But here we are. Three men are running as conservatives. Two of them say the incumbent isn’t conservative enough. The incumbent says he is, even though he makes no secret of his disdain for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who runs the Senate and who also is running as a “principled conservative.”

It’s going to get really crowded on the right-wing fringe, as Canon and Leal keep pushing Seliger in that direction.

My own sense is that Sen. Seliger need not prove a thing. He is the real thing and he does represent Texas Senate District 31 well enough to merit re-election.

Yes, he is a conservative. He just chooses to speak in detail about the legislative process and stays away from TEA Party demagoguery.

Cruz sounds the alarm … but is it a false one?

Ted Cruz is trying to rally Texas Republicans, as if they need any rallying.

The U.S. senator I have dubbed “The Cruz Missile” might be in for the fight of his life this year. He’s got a serious Democratic challenger waiting in the wings and, according to The Missile himself, the challenger has a Democratic constituency that is “stark-raving nuts” in its loathing of all things relating to Donald Trump.

I have made no secret of my own disdain for Cruz, not to mention the president of the United States. From the moment he stepped into his Senate seat in 2013 he has sought, in my mind, to make a name for himself. He hasn’t spoken on behalf of all Texans. He has spoken only for those who support his view that the Affordable Care Act needs to go and that the nation needs to build a wall along our southern border.

But he’s trying now, according to the Texas Tribune, to gin up enthusiasm among Texas Republican voters ahead of the upcoming midterm election.

Why is The Cruz Missile trying to light that fire? For starters, he is facing a well-funded opponent this fall in the form of U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, an El Paso congressman who — and this interests me greatly — has made many forays into deeply Republican Panhandle communities in search of votes.

O’Rourke is raising a lot of money and he has his own base of supporters in the Panhandle fired up about his chances of knocking The Cruz Missile out of orbit this November.

We’ll have to see about that.

But O’Rourke and other Democrats have fired up Cruz enough for him to rally the GOP faithful. As the Tribune reports, Cruz made a series of political appearances this weekend: “Let me tell you right now: The left is going to show up,” Cruz said, delivering the keynote address at the party’s Lincoln Reagan Dinner. “They will crawl over broken glass in November to vote.”

The Tribune also reports: Cruz is feeling the heat in his own bid for a second term. O’Rourke, who has sworn off money from political action committees, outraised Cruz in the last three months of 2017, $2.4 million to $1.9 million. It was the second quarter in which O’Rourke’s haul was bigger than that of Cruz, who still maintains a healthy cash-on-hand advantage.

A lot of political observers believe we could be heading for one of those “wave elections,” where the out-party delivers serious political damage to politicians of the majority party. It happened in 1994, and again in 2010 and 2014.

I’ll simply add this bit of context: If Ted Cruz finds himself in any peril in this deeply Republican state, then you know the rest of the country is about to get drenched in a political tidal wave.

Happy Trails, Part 73

The question comes to me almost weekly.

I’ll run into longtime friends or acquaintances and they inevitably ask: How do you like retirement?

My answer is usually the same: If I were doing any better I’d be twins.

One former colleague who now lives in Houston asked me that very question about a year ago. I gave him the answer. His response? “I’ve never met a retired person who doesn’t love being retired.”

There you have it. My friend has said I fit the mold of your standard, run-of-the-mill retired guy.

What my friend also understands is that my journey toward retired contentment — and, yes, the joy it brings — didn’t start out that way. My retirement journey began unhappily. I wasn’t yet ready to call it quits when I did. I resigned my last newspaper job — at the Amarillo Globe-News — in a fit of emotional pain.

The truth is that it didn’t take me long to realize that my former employer actually did me a favor. I sent myself out to pasture. The pain that I felt on my last day of employment dissipated quickly.

I’ve known many people over the years who have gone through circumstances quite similar to what I encountered. They had been reorganized out of jobs, too.

Here is what I rediscovered about myself. I am a highly adaptable creature. I discovered by adaptability when my family and I moved from Oregon to Texas in the spring of 1984 and exposed ourselves to a serious culture shock. We adapted. My wife and I went through another form of culture shock when we moved from Beaumont to Amarillo in January 1995. We adapted to that change yet again.

My wife and I are going to embark on one more big challenge as we prepare to relocate once more, from the High Plains to North Texas.

My adaptability skills will come into play once again.

The only part of my new life that won’t change — ever! — is a return to the working world. I’ve done my time there.

Retirement really is so very good.

NFL does well with its Man of Year selection

I don’t normally get excited about pro football awards.

This year is different. The National Football League today announced its Walter Payton Man of the Year award. It goes to someone I just knew would get it: J.J. Watt, the standout defensive end for the Houston Texans.

What did Watt do to earn this honor, named after the late Walter Payton, the Hall of Fame running back and one of the great all-round great gentlemen of all pro sports?

Watt decided to launch a fundraising effort to help victims of his adopted hometown of Houston, after the wrath it suffered from Hurricane Harvey. He set a modest goal of $250,000.

Uh, Watt finished with a lot more than that. He ended up raising a cool $37 million for the waterlogged residents of Houston, whose homes were destroyed by the epic rainfall.

J.J. Watt is a tremendous athlete. I am delighted to know that the NFL has recognized him for possessing a tremendous heart.

Many of us far away from the coast saw this award coming. Our hearts were broken when Harvey came ashore not once, but twice along the Texas Gulf Coast. It pounded the Coastal Bend with killer winds and storm surge, then backed away from the coast and returned as a tropical storm.

It was on its second visit to the coast that Harvey did its damage to Houston and to the Golden Triangle, just east of the big city.

J.J. Watt stepped up in a big-time way to raise money for those victims — and has richly earned the title of the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year.

Well done, young man. I would bet that Walter Payton, the man they called “Sweetness,” would be proud of you, too.

Sexual abuse story now heads for Texas

Larry Nassar, the serial sexual assailant, has settled into his new “home,” which happens to be a Michigan prison, where he will spend the rest of his miserable life.

The story of this monster is still unfolding, in Texas.

Nassar — a former physician — was sentenced to 175 years in prison after he was convicted of sexual assault of young women and girls while they were under his medical care at Michigan State University. His victims were young gymnasts, some of whom were Olympic champions.

The Texas connection? Several of the women contend that they were abused while they trained under the eyes of Bela and Martha Karolyi at their famed “ranch” near Houston.

Gov. Greg Abbott has deployed the Texas Rangers — the elite investigative arm of the Department of Public Safety — to look into the allegations of abuse that have been leveled against the Karolyis.

The Texas Tribune reports: “The public statements made by athletes who previously trained at the Karolyi Ranch are gut-wrenching,” Abbott said in a statement Tuesday. “Those athletes, as well as all Texans, deserve to know that no stone is left unturned to ensure that the allegations are thoroughly vetted and the perpetrators and enablers of any such misconduct are brought to justice. The people of Texas demand, and the victims deserve, nothing less.”

Indeed.

I have supreme confidence that the Texas Rangers will get to the truth, whatever it is and whomever it involves.

Nassar’s conviction and sentence already have brought down members of the U.S. gymnastics association, as well as the Michigan State president and athletic director.

I am not going to bet against the Rangers finding more culprits lurking right here, in Texas.

‘Big-city liberals’ do what, Lt. Gov. Patrick?

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has been running a TV ad that makes an accusation that offends me to my core.

The Republican is running for re-election and he is proclaiming how tough he is on illegal immigration. Then he declares: “Big-city liberals favor open borders.”

To which I say, “Huh? What? Are you serious?” Well, sure he’s serious. Because he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

You see, what Patrick is saying suggests that “big-city liberals” want no controls on immigration. That they want to allow everyone into this country, regardless of their standing. They “welcome” illegal immigrants who might have criminal intent.

That is the rhetoric of a blatant demagogue.

I am no “big-city” liberal. I live in a moderately sized city in the Texas Panhandle, where most of my neighbors are likely to vote for Patrick later this year.

I also believe in stricter enforcement of our immigration policies. I am willing to pay for more Border Patrol personnel, for more electronic security/surveillance equipment.

However, I part company with Patrick and others on construction of a wall across our southern border. Furthermore, I am pretty damn sure that my own beliefs don’t make me someone who favors “open borders.” My strong hunch, too, is that other liberals would object to the “open borders” canard that comes from the lieutenant governor’s mouth.

Where have you gone, Dr Pepper?

As the late Jimmy Durante might say, “What a revoltin’ development this is.”

Dr Pepper has been bought by Keurig. A longstanding Texas brand, therefore, is moving to Massachusetts.

What does it mean? What is happening to this serious Texas-brand soft drink, dubbed “the national drink of Texas”?

According to Texas Monthly, Dr Pepper will continue to headquarter in Texas, but its main office — where the top of the corporate chain of command operates — will move to the Bay State.

Here is how Texas Monthly reported the change: … As of Monday, a big piece of the Dr Pepper tradition is heading outside of the state: Keurig Green Mountain, the source of the K-Cup fad of the early/mid-2010’s, announced on Monday that they acquired Dr Pepper Snapple for $18.7 billion—which means that, while Dr Pepper’s HQ will likely remain in Texas, the corporate parent will be based out of Massachusetts.

Here is Texas Monthy’s story.

I am not a huge Dr Pepper drinker. One of my sons loves it. If he were to pick his soft drink of choice, it would be the Dr … and I won’t put a period after “Dr” because the brand doesn’t allow it. My wife prefers the diet version of the drink.

We have lived in Texas long enough — 35 years — to appreciate the drink’s impact on the state. We once toured the Dr Pepper museum in Waco, where the beverage was founded in 1885. Indeed, Baylor University has its Dr Pepper Hour each week.

But a Texas institution just won’t seem quite right once the corporate offices move way up yonder … to New England!

As a friend of mine — who happens to be a Baylor grad — noted on social media, them Yankees are likely to put a period after, um, “Dr.”

Remember when Texas was awash in water?

Mother Nature is so darn fickle.

It was just a year ago when Texas was in the midst of a drenching. Rain soaked the landscape from the Panhandle to the Rolling Plains. The snowfall early in 2017 was welcome, too. The first half of the year brought ample moisture, pleasing our farmers and ranchers to no end.

Then came Hurricane Harvey’s one-two punch along the coast; it arrived as a hurricane and pounded the Coastal Bend with storm surge and heavy wind and returned a few days later as a tropical storm and inundated Houston and the Golden Triangle under 50 inches of rain.

The Texas drought was over! Or so the National Weather Service proclaimed.

Hold on a minute. What happened?

It stopped raining in the Panhandle. Around 40 percent of the state is undergoing moderate to severe drought. The Panhandle has been dry for 107 straight days and is approaching an all-time dryness record, which was set in — gulp! — 1902.

As the Texas Tribune reports: The Texas Panhandle has become ground zero in a drought that has crept into much of the state just five months after Hurricane Harvey — including areas that suffered massive flooding during the storm.

When he was governor of Texas, Rick Perry said it would be helpful if Texans would pray for rain. The 2011 drought was a punishing event and the governor sought to look toward the heavens for relief.

It came eventually. Did the prayer help? It’s equally tough to prove or deny categorically. We are left, then, only to believe.

With that, perhaps it’s time we sought help once again from the Almighty.