Tag Archives: Dan Patrick

Lieutenant governor plays a heavy hand badly

Those of us who know Texas state Sen. Kel Seliger need to take a look at a clean and crisp political analysis about the growing feud between the Amarillo lawmaker and fellow Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

The Texas Tribune’s Ross Ramsey has concluded that Patrick is likely misplaying his hand in punishing Seliger for an impolite remark the senator made regarding a top Patrick aide, Sherry Sylvester.

Read Ramsey’s analysis here.

By banishing Seliger the chairmanship of the Senate Higher Education Committee and taking him off the Education Committee, Patrick has muted a key Texas Panhandle voice on matters involving public education. Seliger has been a champion of both public and higher ed since he was first elected to the Senate in 2004. In fact, Seliger’s service on the Education panel continued the Panhandle presence, given that he succeeded the late Teel Bivins in the Senate District 31 seat.

Ramsey’s analysis takes note of how Patrick has demonstrated a habit of (a) punishing a senator from his own party and (b) pouring it on.

What might play out as the Senate gets down to legislative business over the course of the next 120-some days is whether Seliger emerges as a “swing vote” that could deny legislation from coming to a vote of the full Senate.

I don’t believe Seliger is a particularly vengeful individual. Then again, he’s been done wrong by the lieutenant governor and, by extension, so have his West Texas constituents been harmed by Patrick’s petulance. Seliger takes his public service seriously, even if he doesn’t always taken himself so seriously . . . which I consider to be a positive trait that I believe all politicians should exhibit.

Judging from the way Patrick has erupted over Seliger’s supposedly crude comment, the lieutenant governor is taking himself far too seriously to suit my taste. Then again, I don’t have to serve with this guy. Oh, no, I get to do something even better: I get to complain about his conduct as the Senate’s presiding officer, given that he works for me and the rest of the state’s 27 million residents.

Therefore, I believe he has messed up by attempting to manhandle one of the Senate’s wisest and most experienced individuals.

Ground does shift under politicians’ feet

Texas state Sen. Kel Seliger has been stripped of two committee chairmanships, citing differences in philosophy and policy with the man who took them away.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick says he did it because the veteran Amarillo Republican lawmaker spoke rudely to a key Patrick aide and calls Seliger a “corrosive” influence in the Senate.

Actually, there’s not a damn thing “corrosive” about Seliger, who has staked out a reputation over his 14-year Senate career as a man who works well on both sides of the political divide.

I believe Seliger’s view is the accurate interpretation.

The Texas Republican Party has morphed into something quite different from what it used to represent. It has become more interested in “social issues,” and issues relating to “morality.” I’ve known Seliger for more than two decades and I feel confident in suggesting that he doesn’t dance to the socially conservative tune played by the state’s GOP legislative leadership.

It’s not the rarest of events to see the political ground shifting under politicians’ feet. Texas Democrats begin tilting significantly leftward in the late 1980s leading up to the 1990 gubernatorial election, which seated Ann Richards in the governor’s office. Richards was far more progressive than your standard Texas Democrat. Indeed, there were a number of Democratic lawmakers who turned Republican about that time. One of them was former state Rep. Warren Chisum, the Pampa oil man and rancher who once was a proud Democrat but who turned to the GOP. His stated reason was that the party shifted away from his own world view.

Do I expect Sen. Seliger to wake up tomorrow morning and shift to the Democratic Party? No. He stands by his “conservative Republican” credentials. Seliger’s brand of conservatism, though, deals more with fiscal matters than it does with social issues. Patrick remains a fiscal conservative, but he has been seen by critics — such as Seliger — as being no friend of public education; he likes vouchers, which Seliger opposes.

So, for the moment, Seliger — as well as his West Texas constituents — are paying a steep price for the senator’s dispute with the lieutenant governor.  I am not going to buy into the notion that this stripping of power is based solely on a perceived rudeness by a senator who still enjoys great support among his colleagues.

Hey, Dan Patrick: Senators work for us, not you

I have to weigh in one more time — although quite possibly not the final time — on the growing Texas Senate feud between Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Kel Seilger, an Amarillo Republican.

The way I see it, Patrick is acting as if he employs the 31 members of the state’s upper legislative chamber. That ain’t the case, fella. They work for us. They work chiefly for the people who they represent in their respective Senate districts as well as for those who live in other parts of the state, given that they enact laws that affect all Texans.

The lieutenant governor stripped Seliger, a seasoned veteran of the Legislature, of all his committee assignments. Why? According to Seliger it is because the two men have different world views and legislative priorities; Patrick claims he did it because Seliger reportedly has a potty mouth and made some “lewd comments” to a female Patrick staffer.

Either excuse seems to point to a dictatorial streak being exhibited by Lt. Gov. Patrick.

The Dallas Morning News this morning published a lengthy feature on Seliger and the reputation he enjoys among his Senate colleagues. I’ll attach it to this blog post. Spoiler alert: The reporter, Lauren McGaughy, called yours truly for comments on Seliger, and she included some of them in this piece.

Here it is.

My point here is that Seliger answers to West Texans first and to the rest of the state second. Patrick place on the senator’s pecking order priority list is a very distant third.

I already have stated my pro-Seliger bias in this dust-up. The Texas Panhandle — where I used to live — and the rest of Seliger’s vast Senate District 31 have been disserved mightily by Patrick’s petulance. He referred to Seliger in an earlier DMN piece as a “corrosive force” in the Senate. The comments given to the Morning News by senators in both political parties paint a vastly different picture of the man with whom they have worked and served our great state.

I will continue to stand by my friend, Sen. Seliger.

Texas GOP is eating its own

The Texas Republican Party used to be represented among its elected officials as an organization dedicated to low taxes, local control and individual liberty. There was little else at the top of the party’s agenda.

That’s no longer the case. It now gets involved in issues such as use of public restrooms, school vouchers and whether we should allow prayer in public school classrooms.

I mention this in light of the recent tumult involving two key Texas Republicans: Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and state Sen. Kel Seliger.

Patrick has kicked Seliger, of Amarillo, out of the chairmanship of two Senate committees and removed him from membership on two others. Seliger didn’t like one of the chairmanships he got, said something to a radio talk show host and then got the boot from that chairmanship.

Patrick blames Seliger’s impolite remarks about a key Patrick aide; Seliger blames the tempest on the vast differences in the two men’s approach to government. Spoiler alert: I am going to side with Seliger on this one.

Which brings me to a key point. I once wondered aloud whether Seliger has a place in today’s Texas GOP. I posited the notion that the party has moved away from the senator’s more pragmatic approach to government. Given the rigid ideology that at times drives Patrick’s legislative agenda, I am thinking once again that might be the case.

The closest thing I can find in Seliger’s political portfolio that might tilt him toward a “socially conservative” viewpoint is his strong support for gun owners’ rights. He calls himself a proud member of the National Rifle Association. The rest of his legislative political career has focused more on the value of public education, on keeping our tax burden low, fighting for private property ownership, issues that matter to the rural West Texans who help re-elect him to the Senate every four years.

Patrick well might believe in all that, too, but he goes a whole lot farther than Seliger does. He pushed that idiotic Bathroom Bill through the Senate in 2017, only to watch it die in the House when then-Speaker Joe Straus declared it dead on arrival. The bill would have required transgender individuals to use public restrooms in accordance to their gender at birth. Discrimination, anyone?

That’s the kind of nonsense that seems to drive so many Texas Republicans in public office these days. I don’t believe Seliger — whom I have known well for the past 24 years — buys into that agenda.

So these two men have butted heads.

Patrick presides over the Senate. He can assign or un-assign senators to whichever committees he chooses.

Sen. Seliger calls himself a proud Republican. I believe he does so with sincerity. The problem, as I see it, is whether the GOP leadership is aligned with this good man’s practical sense of government’s reach and its limitation. I fear it isn’t.

Sen. Seliger deserves better than what he got

I cannot put aside the shafting that Texas state Sen. Kel Seliger got from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. And as a result, Patrick also gave the shaft to hundreds of thousands of West Texans who deserve to be represented by their veteran lawmaker.

And for what reason? Because the Republican senator isn’t loyal enough to the ideological agenda proposed and pushed by the Republican lieutenant governor! From my vantage point, I believe Seliger answers first to the West Texans who have elected him to the Texas Senate, not the guy who runs the state’s upper legislative chamber.

Patrick removed Seliger, of Amarillo, as chairman of the Senate Higher Ed Committee; he pulled him off the Senate Education Committee and the Finance Committee. He installed him as chair of the Agriculture Committee, then pulled him out of the chairmanship after Seliger made what Patrick thought was an “lewd” comment about a key Patrick aide.

Seliger believes Patrick is angry over the senator’s resistance toward some of the rigid ideological views that Patrick expresses on occasion. He favors public schools and opposes Patrick’s push for vouchers to lure students away from public education.

So now the residents of Texas Senate District 31 have a senator in office with vastly reduced political clout. Shameful, I tell you!

This tempest reminds me a little of an earlier fight between two congressional Republicans, one of whom represented West Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich was a champion of something called Freedom to Farm. He had led the GOP takeover of Congress in 1994 and pushed the Freedom to Farm bill in the House. It would have dramatically overhauled federal farm policy, which didn’t set well with then-U.S. Rep. Larry Combest, who represented West Texas from Lubbock to Amarillo. Combest resisted Freedom to Farm and voted against it.

Gingrich thought he would punish Combest by denying him a House Agricultural Committee chairmanship. Combest stood firm, telling Gingrich in no uncertain terms that he didn’t work for the speaker, but worked for the farmers and ranchers who elected him to the House. He was their man, not Gingrich’s errand boy.

Combest wouldn’t be bullied by Gingrich in the 1990s. Seliger won’t be bullied by Patrick now.

I see a certain similarity between these two pairings. I pulled for Combest in his fight with the House speaker and I am pulling for Seliger in this feud with the Texas lieutenant governor.

Both men stood and are standing with the men and women who elect them, not the bully who seeks to call the shots in the legislative chamber.

Where is the Texas Senate’s wise man?

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.

Political toxicity spills over . . . into Austin

He never would say such a thing publicly, let alone within earshot of a key state government aide, but Texas state Sen. Kel Seliger’s brief stint as Texas Senate Agriculture Committee chairman well might have been “beneath” his legislative skill.

There. I’ve said it for him.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick pulled the chairmanship from Seliger after the Amarillo Republican reportedly made an impolite comment about a Patrick assistant’s stated view that Seliger should seek another chairmanship if he thought the Ag Committee post was “beneath” him. Patrick said Seliger should have apologized for the comment. Seliger didn’t do it, but said he should have directed his remark at Patrick instead.

But . . . what about the Agriculture Committee?

It’s a brand new panel that Patrick created. Why is that? I guess it’s because the Texas Legislature traditionally has taken little direct legislative action affecting our farms and ranches. Congress enacts federal farm legislation every couple of years to protect the livelihoods of farmers and ranchers against years when harvests don’t allow them to repay their loans or feed their livestock.

What does the Legislature do in that regard? Umm, not much.

Sen. Seliger used to chair a meaningful committee: the Senate Higher Education Committee, which is where the Legislature does have a tremendous impact on our state’s publicly funded colleges and universities. Oh, but Patrick and Seliger aren’t exactly BFFs, given their different approaches to governance. Accordingly, Patrick took the gavel away from Seliger and then removed him altogether from the Higher Ed panel; he also took Seliger off the Education Committee and the Finance Committee.

How might any of us react if we were treated so shabbily? I wouldn’t like being denied a chance to represent my constituents in a more meaningful way.

So the 2019 Texas Legislature has gotten off to a bit of a rocky start — at least where it concerns one of the Senate’s most senior Republicans, who since 2004 has taken his responsibilities most seriously representing the interests of West Texas.

Seliger vs. Patrick: The feud escalates

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has the power of appointments on his side.

Texas state Sen. Kel Seliger has, well, I don’t quite know what it is precisely. However, I am going to stand with my friend — Seliger — in this seemingly escalating feud with Patrick, someone I cannot support.

Patrick yanked the chairmanship of the Senate Agriculture Committee from Seliger after the senator told a senior Patrick aide that she could kiss his backside. Patrick demanded an apology for the “lewd” comment; Seliger refused; Patrick then took the chairmanship away.

It’s getting ugly in Austin, ladies and gents.

Seliger and Patrick are far from soulmates. They belong to the same Republican Party, but they surely view the political landscape from different perspectives. Yes, Seliger campaigned for re-election in 2018 as a “conservative,” touting his NRA membership as an example of his conservative chops. Patrick, meanwhile, pushed a right-wing agenda as he ran the Senate, most notably the Bathroom Bill that sought to discriminate against transgender individuals; in fairness, I should note that Seliger voted for the Bathroom Bill along with the rest of the GOP Senate majority.

Seliger declined to sign a letter from Texas Senate Republicans endorsing Patrick, who then declined to endorse Seliger’s bid for re-election.

Now it’s come down to this. Patrick stripped the Higher Education Committee chairmanship from Seliger and removed him from that panel altogether as well as from the Education and Finance committees.

According to the Texas Tribune: “Seliger called the snub a ‘very clear warning’ that Republican better toe the line, teeing up the battle.”

See the Tribune story here.

The Patrick aide made some snarky remark that Seliger could ask for another chairmanship if he thought the Ag Committee assignment was “beneath him.”

That’s when Seliger reportedly told the aide, Sherry Silvester to, um … well, you know.

So, Sylvester poured the fuel on the fire on Patrick’s behalf. Seliger decided to respond. Patrick acted within his legislative and statutory authority as the Senate’s presiding officer.

However, in acting in this manner, Patrick — who hails from way down yonder in Houston — has denied the Texas Panhandle an experienced and seasoned voice in the on-going battle for legislative attention.

The way I see it, Patrick is simply throwing his weight around.

Patrick gives Seliger, West Texas the shaft

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.

Revenge politics in play?

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.

The Civil War plaque is coming down! Yes!

Texas Republicans must be smitten with a rash of reason and sanity.

The GOP-influenced State Preservation Board that oversees the Texas Capitol grounds has voted to remove a plaque that declares that the Confederacy did not launch a “rebellion” that started the Civil War and that the bloody conflict’s “underlying cause” was not to “sustain slavery.”

Of course it was to allow states to keep slaves and it most certainly was a “rebellion” ignited by the Confederate States of America.

The plaque was installed by the Children of the Confederate Creed. It had been the subject of a yearlong string of complaints from those who called it historically false.

Gov. Greg Abbott, who chairs the board, called for the plaque’s removal, as did House Speaker Dennis Bonnen. State Rep. Jeff Leach, a Plano Republican who was just appointed to the board by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, said, “If I had a sledgehammer in my office, I’d go up there right now and remove it. But I’m told that’s not necessary as it will be removed very soon.”

There you have it. Reason has prevailed.

The plaque needs to come down. Thank goodness it will.