I don’t know where he is at this very moment, but I cannot stop thinking about Bill Ratliff as I read about the tension building between two key players in the Texas Senate.
Ratliff served as lieutenant governor in the early 2000s. He was elevated to that post by his fellow state senators after Lt. Gov. Rick Perry moved into the governor’s office after the 2000 election of George W. Bush as president of the United States.
Ratliff, a Republican from Mount Pleasant in East Texas, was generally a revered political figure in the Texas Capitol. He enjoyed tremendous bipartisan support. Why is that? Because he didn’t govern with a heavy hand.
Ratliff must be grinding his teeth as he follows this stuff.
Oh, man. The mood in Austin is a whole lot different these days. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick not only has pi**** off his Democratic colleagues, he’s managing to antagonize his fellow Republicans. One of them is a fellow I’ve known quite well for more than two decades, Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo.
Patrick is telling the rest of the GOP Senate caucus the following messages: Do it my way . . . or else! The “or else” in Seliger’s case arrived when Patrick took away the chairmanship of the Higher Education Committee and removed Seliger from the Education and Finance committees. Patrick then threw Seliger a bone when he named him chair of the newly formed Agriculture Committee, a post that Seliger reportedly didn’t thrill him.
A Patrick aide said that if Seliger believed the Ag post was “beneath him” he could ask to be withdrawn and Patrick could appoint someone else. Seliger then told a Lubbock radio host — in so many words — that the aide could kiss his “rear end.”
Patrick then responded to that by yanking Seliger out of the Agriculture panel’s chairmanship post.
Imagine any of this occurring with Bill Ratliff as the Man of the Senate. I cannot wrap my head around that.
To be clear, I do not know Ratliff. I only know of him. Just as I don’t know Patrick, either, but I certainly know of this guy.
Patrick is playing hardball. He is using his considerable power to punish one of the Senate’s more senior members because the two of them don’t view the world through the same ideological prism.
Here is how the Texas Tribune sees this saga.
The Texas Senate used to have a tradition of bipartisanship. The lieutenant governor used to govern with an eye toward enlisting support from the minority party’s senators. To think that a lieutenant governor — whether Democrat or Republican — would punish a member of his own caucus has been a heretofore unthinkable occurrence.
I wish we could find another Bill Ratliff out there somewhere. They didn’t call him “Obi-Wan Kenobie,” the wise man from “Star Wars,” for nothing.