Tag Archives: Empower Texans

Butt out, Rep. Tinderholt

I am quite certain that damn few Amarillo residents knew the name of Tony Tinderholt until he decided to stick his nose into an Amarillo City Hall dustup over whether residents can applaud during City Council meetings.

Tinderholt is a Republican state representative from Arlington. Oh, and he’s also a golden boy associated with Empower Texans, a far-right-wing political action group that decided to become involved in a couple of Texas Panhandle GOP legislative primary races this spring.

Empower Texans had its head — and other body parts — handed to it when Panhandle Republican voters essentially re-elected state Sen. Kel Seliger and state Rep. Four Price, both of them Amarillo Republicans.

Tinderholt has decided to pressure Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson into rethinking her decision to restrict clapping at council meetings.

I won’t get into the merits of Nelson’s decision. I’m sitting out here in the peanut gallery and am out of the loop on the details of what transpired when Nelson kicked a constituent out of a council meeting. I will say only that Nelson perhaps overreacted in the moment, but has tried to explain — in the wake of some local criticism — that she has a keen understanding and appreciation of the First Amendment and its guarantees of free speech and all that kind of thing.

I am struck by the idea that a state representative from far away would want to meddle in a matter that should be settled by the folks who live here and who are elected to govern a community’s affairs.

It’s interesting, too, that Tinderholt would be affiliated with a group, Empower Texans, that sought to dictate to Panhandle residents how they should vote. The Texas Panhandle took care of its business quite nicely despite the pressure being brought to bear on this region from Empower Texans.

So, to Rep. Tinderholt and Empower Texans, I just have this modest rejoinder: Butt out!

Speaker candidates are lining up

Tan Parker has become the third Texas House of Representatives member to file for the race to become the next speaker of the state House.

He hails from Flower Mound; the other two are Phil King of Weatheford and John Zerwas of Richmond. They’re all Republicans.

OK. That’s all fine.

I’m wondering if we’re going to hear an announcement from another up-and-comer in the Texas House. He hails from Amarillo. He’s also a Republican, who also delivered a serious pounding to a candidate favored by Empower Texans, a far right wing political organization that sought to topple this fellow in the GOP primary this week.

Rep. Four Price? Are you listening?

Here’s what I have to say to this young man, who happens to be a friend of mine and who also has done a stellar job representing House District 87 since 2011.

Becoming speaker of the House essentially turns the office into a full-time endeavor. Price will have to come to grips with the idea that he no longer would be a part-time “citizen legislator.” He also has been a strong ally of the current speaker, Joe Straus of San Antonio, who isn’t running for re-election to the House.

Straus distinguished himself mightily by ensuring the death of the infamous Bathroom Bill that passed the Texas Senate in 2017. The Bathroom Bill would have required transgender individuals to use public restrooms in accordance to the gender assigned on their birth certificate.

It is discriminatory on its face. It had no business becoming Texas law. Straus saw it for what it was.

So, would a Speaker Four Price follow that lead? I would hope so.

I also believe that Rep. Price would make an excellent speaker candidate, giving the Texas Panhandle a strong voice in legislative matters, as it did when Democrat Pete Laney of Hale Center ran the House of Representatives.

Hey, I’m just a single voice here in the wilderness.

Still, my desire is to see my friend go for it.

Empower Texans had its head handed to it

Empower Texans had a bad week.

The result of the rest of us is that Texas voters — primarily Republican primary voters — had a good week. That means Texas had a good week.

Empower Texans is a right-wing advocacy group that lowered its sights on a number of incumbents around the state. State Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo was one of them. Seliger managed to fend off a GOP primary challenge and skate to virtual re-election to another term; he does face a Libertarian challenger in the fall, but don’t bet the mortgage on Seliger losing that one.

Empower Texans — led by Michael Quinn Sullivan (pictured) — believes Republicans and other conservatives need to toe a strictly drawn line. It is based downstate, yet it poured lots of money into the far reaches of the vast state. The Panhandle got its taste of Empower Texans’ penchant for distortion and outright lies.

Seliger survived. So did state Rep. Four Price, another Amarillo Republican, who thumped challenger Drew Brassfield by about a thousand percentage points in the race for House District 87, which Price has represented well since 2011.

The Texas Tribune reports: “The forces of extremism, like Empower Texans … overplayed their hand, turned voters off and experienced significant losses in the March primaries,” said GOP consultant Eric Bearse, who helped (state Rep. Sarah) Davis and three other candidates win amid an onslaught from Empower and other critics. “It started to become clear in some of these races that it really was a choice between our local representative and someone who is wholly owned by outside groups and outside money.”

I love the irony of that assessment.

Conservatives are supposed relish local control over the interests of others. Isn’t that what they say?

Yet we have Empower Texans tossing that dogma out the window with its strong-arming of political discussion with money and power that derives from some centrally located source.

Seliger and Price — along with a host of other Texas incumbents — were able to persuade sufficient numbers of Texans to see through this sham.

It’s bad for Empower Texans. Good for the rest of us.

Empower Texans: It’s hitting the fan

Seliger’s GOP win was big, really big

I cannot overstate the significance this week of state Sen. Kel Seliger’s victory in the Texas Senate District 31 Republican Party primary.

It’s significant on at least two levels.

One is that he faced — count ’em — two GOP foes in this primary. Empower Texans, a far-right political action organization, decided to “primary” Seliger because its leadership wanted someone who’s “more conservative” than Seliger has demonstrated during the 14 years he has represented West Texas.

Empower Texans sought to outflank Seliger, a former Amarillo mayor, on the right. His response was to remind voters that he’s conservative. His voting record is mainstream — but he’s a conservative. He proclaims his pro-life, pro-gun rights voting record as demonstrable proof of his conservatism.

The second level of significance deals with this fact: Unlike in 2014, when he faced just one foe in the GOP primary, this year he had two of them. One of this year’s opponents was Mike Canon, the former Midland mayor who Seliger beat four years ago by just 4 percentage points.

Let’s throw in a second right-wing opponent, Amarillo businessman Victor Leal. Between them, Canon and Leal garnered 49.5 percent of the vote. Seliger finished with 50.5 percent, or one-half of a percent more than he needed to avoid a runoff.

I have been unable to analyze the vote as it developed from top to bottom of District 31. My first glance at the vote totals tells me that Canon and Leal battled between themselves for the TEA Party wing vote, leaving the rest of the West Texas Republican voting bloc open for Seliger to harvest.

Canon’s first run for the state Senate in 2014 revealed to me that he spoke mostly in TEA Party slogans when the lights came on. In private, I found him to be personable, intelligent and articulate.

As for Leal, he spent much of his effort accusing Seliger of alleged nefarious relationships and too little of it explaining in any detail how he planned to represent West Texas differently than what Seliger has done.

Thus, Canon and Leal fought for the Republican fringe vote that exists out there. Critics of the senator are liable to say he “barely” won the primary. However, I look at it differently: He beat Canon by nearly 20 points and Leal by more than 30 points.

I would call that a serious drubbing.

Sen. Seliger beats back demagoguery

I had hoped to call it last night. I had to wait until this morning to find out that Texas state Sen. Kel Seliger is returning to the Texas Legislature.

His victory in the Texas Republican primary is a win against demagoguery. Seliger had faced a stern challenge from two far-right opponents: former Midland Mayor Mike Canon and Amarillo restauranteur Victor Leal.

Canon ran against Seliger in 2014. Leal decided to run as well this year. My first thought was that Leal might peel off some Texas Panhandle votes from Seliger, tossing the contest into a runoff. Hey, guess what happened! Seliger piled up a significant majority in this three-way race, guaranteeing his re-election, given the absence of any Democratic candidates.

This is important for Senate District 31 voters for a couple of important reasons. One is that Seliger has established a stellar reputation among voters at both ends of the sprawling district; he is as fluent in Permian Basin-speak as he is in Panhandle-speak, and tailors his remarks according to the audience that hears them. The other is that he is a mainstream Republican conservative who is not prone to talking only in cliches and platitudes.

He knows the legislative process. Seliger has risen to a position of leadership among the 31 senators in the Legislature’s upper chamber.

All of that hasn’t been good enough for Empower Texans, a political action group that opposed his re-election. Seliger, for his part, has no good will to fling at Michael Quinn Sullivan, the fellow most associated with Empower Texans. Sullivan’s favorite legislator is Lt. Dan Patrick, who presides over the Senate. Seliger and Patrick aren’t exactly best buds, either, even though Seliger has been able to hold on to his chairmanship of the Senate Higher Education Committee. Given the presence of West Texas A&M University and several community colleges throughout District 31, it is critical that we have one of our own handling the gavel on this committee.

I am delighted to awaken this morning to news that my pal Sen. Seliger will get to continue to serving West Texas.

He has done a good job since 2004. However,  the job of legislating is never finished.

Price cruising to re-election … good deal!

Take that, Empower Texans!

The far-right political action hack, er, group has decided that state Rep. Four Price, R-Amarillo, wasn’t their kind of legislator. So it backed a fellow named Drew Brassfield, the Fritch city manager, to challenge the up-and-coming lawmaker.

Price appears headed for a smashing victory against Brassfield, dashing the hopes of Empower Texans, which has been stalking a number of incumbents — many of them Republicans — throughout the state.

This victory means that GOP voters in Texas House District 87 don’t like being dictated to by political interests who (a) are based far away from the Texas Panhandle and (b) have no interest and/or knowledge of the issues that are unique to this region.

Instead, Empower Texans had funded a campaign that distorted and lied about Price’s voting record in the House.

My hope was that Rep. Price would squash Brassfield’s bid. With a healthy chunk of precincts reporting, Price is leading by about 50 percentage points.

I consider that to be a serious squashing.

Empower Texans needs a comeuppance

COLLIN COUNTY, Texas — Empower Texans has done it. This far-right political action group has p****d me off royally.

It has spent lots of PAC money on races all across the state, trying to influence voters’ decision on these local legislative races. Empower Texans has managed, through its lies and distortions, managed to do the impossible. It has fielded candidates to challenge legislative incumbents on the basis that these rock-ribbed Republican lawmakers just aren’t conservative enough to suit the tastes of those seeking to centralize power in Austin.

My wife and I have traveled to this North Texas community, where I’ve been struck by the deluge of campaign signs. They all tout candidates’ “conservative” values. I’ve seen mailers delivered to our granddaughter’s house that make me laugh to keep me from puking.

One flyer from Philip Huffines, who’s running for the Texas Senate against Angela Paxton, calls Paxton a closet liberal. I don’t know much about Paxton, other than she is the wife of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is, um, hardly a liberal. I’d be willing to be real American money that Huffines is getting bankrolled by Empower Texans, or some arm of this GOP extremist group. Paxton’s campaign signs refer to her as a “constitutional conservative.”

Back home in the Texas Panhandle, Empower Texans has rolled out the heavy artillery to fire at two veteran legislators: state Sen. Kel Seliger and state Rep. Four Price, both of whom are Amarillo Republicans.

Price drew a GOP primary challenge from Fritch City Manager Drew Brassfield, whose candidacy has crossed at least a couple of ethical lines by virtue of his publicly funded job and the conflict of interest he faces if he were to be elected to the state House. Empower Texans has lied about Price’s legislative record, suggesting he supported legislation that doesn’t exist and has somehow become “pro-choice” on abortion, despite his fervently pro-life voting record in his four terms in the Texas House of Representatives.

And then there’s the hatchet job being done on Sen. Seliger, who’s drawn two GOP foes — TEA Party golden boy Mike Canon of Midland and Amarillo businessman Victor Leal.

Leal has launched an egregious attack on Seliger, calling him “liberal” and “corrupt.” Leal’s use of the “corrupt” label is rich, given the questions that arose when he ran for the Texas House in 2010 about whether he actually was a resident of the House district he sought to represent.

For his part, Seliger has vowed to remain positive, citing his long-held conservative voting record and his effort to protect rural West Texas from well-heeled urban interests.

My strong sense that Seliger’s biggest “sin” is that he hasn’t endorsed Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s re-election effort. Why? Because Patrick is in the hip pocket of Empower Texans and its No. 1 brainiac, Michael Quinn Sullivan — who also has crossed swords with Seliger on several occasions during his 14 years in the Texas Senate.

OK, with all that on the record, here is my hope: Price drubs Brassfield, who has shamed himself with his dishonest campaign against a hard-working incumbent; I also want Seliger to win the GOP primary outright, without a runoff against whoever finishes second.

Both men’s records have been distorted to the point of defamation. They have done what they were elected to do: represent West Texas.

As for Empower Texans, it needs to go away. Far, far away.

Time to boast … just a little, or, maybe a lot

You know how much I love blogging full time. The picture above declares it.

You might not know for certain how much I love doing so when I smash, obliterate, pulverize previous records for page views and unique visitors.

It has happened in this month, which is about to conclude after just 28 days.

My daily record was smashed by a factor of more than four; my monthly total was wiped out by a roughly 50-percent cushion; I’m on track to smash another annual record for page views/unique visitors.

What in the world drove this month’s huge traffic? I posted an item the other day that called attention to Empower Texans, a far-right political action group that has been trashing West Texas lawmakers with bogus charges and outright lies.

Empower Texans: It’s hitting the fan

That one got someone’s attention. It has been distributed far and wide. The page view and visitor counts showed up on my Word Press analytic table — and simply blew me away as I watched the numbers explode.

This blog gives me great pleasure even during slow periods. When the traffic ratchets up to the level it has done in the past couple of days, well, that sends me into orbit.

For that I thank those who read this blog. I thank those who share these musings with their own friends and social media acquaintances. I also want to thank those who comment on the blog posts — even when they disagree with my words of, um, wisdom.

Empower Texans: It’s hitting the fan

The media are beginning to peel back the mystery surrounding a political action group that calls itself Empower Texans.

What are we seeing now? It ain’t pretty, folks.

Empower Texans is pouring lots of money into campaigns around the state. It has targeted a couple of seats in the Panhandle with a reprehensible smear campaign.

The group’s actions have been noticed by the media, which are reporting on them with the kind of gusto one saw during other hot political disputes. Watergate comes to mind. So does the Lewinsky scandal.

Let’s take a gander at Michael Quinn Sullivan, the guy who detests state Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, and is backing former Midland Mayor Mike Canon’s bid to unseat Seliger.

Sen. Seliger has not hidden his dislike of Sullivan, who runs the ultra-right-wing organization. Sullivan has returned the favor by pouring lots of money into Canon’s campaign. Texas Monthly’s R.G. Ratcliffe takes particular note of an essay that Amarillo Globe-News columnist Jon Mark Beilue wrote in which he compared Empower Texans to Netflix’s “House of Cards.”

Read Ratcliffe’s essay here. Ratcliffe contends that Empower Texans is subverting democracy by falsifying incumbents’ records, as it has done with Seliger.

Empower Texans also has glommed onto something called the Granny Tax in its effort to unseat state Rep. Four Price, another Amarillo Republican.

Price’s challenger, Fritch City Manager Drew Brassfield, has campaign contributions from wealthy downstate interests that comprise 61 percent of his total campaign intake. Empower Texans has its mitts on that race, too, having endorsed Brassfield over Price.

Empower Texans has fabricated an issue, contending that Texas House members intended to raise taxes on nursing homes, thus penalizing elderly residents of those facilities. Thus, the “Granny Tax” was born.

It didn’t exist.

Scott Braddock of the Houston Chronicle lays out Empower Texans’ deception here.

We are witnessing a despicable display of demagoguery perpetrated by interests who have zero interest in the Texas Panhandle or in West Texas. They are seeking to unseat individuals who don’t grovel at the feet of powerful interests.

Sen. Kel Seliger and Rep. Four Price must not fall victim to this kind of defamation.

As Beilue noted in his column: “They (Empower Texans) are using their typical campaign playbook—paint their guy as the conservative choice, and the other guy as basically a Democrat by distorting and taking facts out of context to make them seem soft on abortion and a patsy for big government. Their hope is enough voters are gullible and naïve to believe it all.”

Man, I certainly hope West Texas Republican primary voters are smarter than that.

I tip my hat, moreover, to the Texas political media for revealing this lie to a voting public that needs to see it.

Sullivan threw out the bait; I took it

Michael Quinn Sullivan runs an outfit called Empower Texans. He sent out a mailer to Texas Senate District 31 residents which contained a bit of red meat of which I took a bite.

It implied that state Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, opposes a Senate bill that would provide $4.6 billion in tax relief for Texans. Dumb me. I fell for it.

Seliger called this morning to remind me that he voted for Senate Bill 1, but simply declined to sign on as a sponsor of the bill.

The antipathy between Seliger and Sullivan is as strong as ever. Indeed, I happen to stand with Seliger in his distaste and distrust of Sullivan, who sees himself as a kingmaker, seeking to elect legislators and statewide officials who agree with his brand of ultraconservatism.

I also happen to agree with those who believe the state should hold off on tax cuts until it takes care of some essential needs, such as infrastructure improvement and restoring money to public education.

Lesson learned: Read everything that Michael Quinn Sullivan sends out — carefully.