Tag Archives: Kel Seliger

This guy got the Texas Senate 31 outcome wrong

Jay Leeson is a Lubbock businessman and radio personality who writes something called “The Other Side of Texas.”

The Amarillo Globe-News published a column from this fellow, who said in his essay that state Sen. Kel Seliger squeaked by in his March 2018 Republican Party primary race for re-election to the Texas Senate 31 seat.

Actually, Leeson has it dead wrong.

Seliger didn’t eke out a narrow victory. He won a three-way contest against two capable GOP primary opponents — one of whom was well-funded by a far-right political organization called Empower Texans — by avoiding a runoff.

Sen. Seliger won with about 51 percent of the ballots cast. The other two men — former Midland Mayor Mike Canon and Amarillo businessman Victor Leal — each collected less than half the total that Seliger rang up. Therefore, I would submit to you, dear reader, that Seliger didn’t squeak by; he won big. How? Because Canon and Leal both split what I consider to be the GOP nut-job vote between them, leaving Seliger to harvest the rest of the mainstream Republican primary voters to win the party’s nomination to another term in the Senate, which Seliger first joined in 2004.

Canon did lose narrowly to Seliger in a two-man GOP primary in 2014. Leal brought significant name familiarity that threatened to chew into Seliger’s Amarillo and Panhandle base of support; Leal, though, didn’t register much in the campaign.

The way I see it, Seliger’s primary victory over more than one opponent was far from a squeaker. He won decisively

Seliger was re-elected in November by crushing a Libertarian candidate. His path to re-election was made significantly easier by his smashing win in the GOP primary against two capable and articulate spokesmen for whatever arch-conservative doctrine they were espousing.

There. I’m glad to have set the record straight . . . as I see it.

Let’s play a congressional succession parlor game

The Texas Tribune has broached a subject that caught my attention, even though I no longer live in the congressional district represented by a man whose been in office for more than 23 years.

The Trib reports that “many Republican operatives” believe Rep. Mac Thornberry, the newly re-elected Republican, is going to serve his final term in the House of Representatives beginning in January. Why? He might not cotton to being a member of the “minority party” in the House; he is surrendering his coveted Armed Services Committee chairmanship and won’t be able to serve as ranking member when he hands the gavel to his Democratic colleague.

I’ve moved away, but I retain a deep interest in Texas Panhandle politics. The 13th Congressional District is part of that landscape.

So . . . let’s play a parlor game called “Who’s Next?”

I’ll start by stipulating that the 13th District is arguably the most Republican congressional district in America. The next House member, if Thornberry calls it quits, is going to come from the GOP. Thornberry was re-elected this month with a whopping 81.6 percent majority in what was a “blue wave” year in other previously strong GOP districts.

It’s less certain, but still reasonably certain, that the next House member will come from the Panhandle portion of the sprawling 13th, which stretches from the very top of Texas to the western outskirts of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Congressional representation is rooted deeply in the Panhandle.

So, who might the next House rep be? I’ll toss a couple of names out there for you to ponder. They are Republican Texas legislators. Both are from Amarillo. Both are friends of mine. Both are fine men with ample political experience to take on the job of representing the entire 13th District.

State Sen. Kel Seliger and state Rep. Four Price? Stand up and take a bow.

Seliger would seem like the better fit for the 13th District. He’s a retired businessman who essentially works full time as a state senator. His Senate district stretches from the Panhandle to the Permian Basin. He is a native of Borger who is as fluent in Permian-speak as he is in Panhandle-speak. He and Thornberry are political allies and friends, from all that I have gathered; then again, so are Price and Thornberry.

Don’t misunderstand me. I think highly of Four Price, too. I’ve known him for as long as I’ve known Seliger. He has a successful Amarillo law practice and has risen to the top of the legislative roster in the 150-member Texas House. Texas Monthly named him one of the state’s top legislators after the 2017 Legislature.

Seliger, though, brings some municipal government experience as well as legislative experience to any consideration of who should — if the opportunity presents itself — succeed Mac Thornberry. He served on the Amarillo City Commission as commissioner and then mayor before being elected to the Texas Senate.

I am making no predictions. I merely am stating what I think might happen if the Texas Tribune’s report is accurate.

Let’s all stay tuned and wait for the fur to fly when the next Congress convenes.

Speaker-to-be Bonnen is OK with the far right

Dennis Bonnen, an Angleton Republican, is poised to become the next speaker of the Texas House of Representatives.

I wish him well. He succeeds Joe Straus of San Antonio, the GOP strongman who stood up to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and the Texas Senate when the need arose.

I hope Rep. Bonnen is made of the same stern stuff. He’s a moderate who likes to work across the aisle. He has had his differences with the Freedom Caucus wing of the legislative Republicans who serve with him. But the Texas Tribune reports that almost all the returning Freedom Caucus members are OK with the new speaker, assuming he gets the nod in January.

I get that the Freedom Caucus comprises only 11 members in a 150-member Texas House. History tells us that far right and sometimes far left fringe groups develop outsized influence that reaches far beyond their meager numbers.

Given the nature of Texas Republican politics, it’s likely too much to assume the Freedom Caucus will follow the speaker’s lead and become more of a moderate influence in the Legislature.

Whenever I think of these far-right groups, I think immediately of Empower Texans, the right-wing loons who sought to topple two of the Legislature’s shining stars — two fellows who happen to be friends of mine to boot!

They are state Rep. Four Price and state Sen. Kel Seliger, two Amarillo Republicans who fended off challenges in handsome fashion. The challenge was financed by Empower Texans, the far right group that seeks to influence local political races all across the state. Empower Texans got its mitts on a number of contests, but given that I was living in during the spring primary season, I got to witness Empower Texans’ dirty work up close.

So, it is my hope that the new speaker keeps his distance from the Freedom Caucus and certainly from Empower Texans.

Empower Texans: Are you out there?

Some of us who watch Texas politics are acutely aware of the state’s right-wing activism, particularly embodied by a group called Empower Texans.

These folks got seriously involved earlier this year in Texas Panhandle Republican Party primary politics. They sought to oust state Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo from the GOP primary. They came up short, as Seliger was able to win his party’s nomination without a runoff against two fringe challengers. They also drew a bead on state Rep. Four Price, another Amarillo Republican, in his race for re-election. Price thumped his challenger.

OK. What’s next for Empower Texans, an Austin-based political action committee that sought to Republicans in disparate regions around the state how to vote?

Are these zealots going to get involved in some of these statewide races? Are they going to pump big money into the candidates of their choice?

I’m wondering at this moment if Empower Texans is more interested in “purifying” the Texas Republican Party than in advancing the party’s long-standing death grip on the state’s political infrastructure.

Empower Texans didn’t do too well in the GOP primary. Part of me wouldn’t mind if Empower Texans decides to lay low during the general election.

Another part of me wishes it gets involved and exposes to Texas voters yet again in the same year how narrow-minded they want their party to remain.

Texas teachers don’t lack political clout

Teachers are protesting in several states, some of which are among the most reliably Republican-red in the nation, such as Oklahoma and West Virginia.

Texas teachers won’t join them, as they are barred from doing so according to a 1993 law that forbids such demonstrations.

I am essentially neutral on the issue of whether teachers should be allowed to strike. However, I would prefer, as state Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, told the Texas Tribune, that they remain in the classroom. “The goal is to ensure we don’t have the sort of stoppages that would constitute a detriment to the school day and the school year. So the focus is on the students,” Seliger said. “Teachers need to be in the classroom. The public expressions of opinion are very important. … If teachers want to demonstrate, they should absolutely demonstrate but it shouldn’t interfere with the school day.”

Still, the lack of the ability to strike doesn’t leave Texas teachers powerless. They can exercise their power at the ballot box. They can organize in favor of candidates who are favorable to their needs, such as better pay and retirement benefits, better insurance coverage to enable them to protect their families.

According to the Texas Tribune: “What we’re focused on are the elections. We’re urging our members, and all other educators, to get out and vote and to vote for education candidates,” said (Clay) Robison, the Texas State Teachers Association spokesman. “Vote for candidates who will vote to increase funding, decrease testing and vote against vouchers.”

“What the Legislature will listen to this year is votes,” he added.

This is not a simplistic solution. It is meant to reveal that ballot-box power can be an effective means to achieve political ends.

We’ve got an election coming up this fall. If teachers are concerned about the future of their profession and the children they serve, then they have the power to make it more right.

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.

Is a GOP incumbent benefiting from split in nut-case vote?

West Texas Republicans — at this very moment — are showing that they’re a pretty smart bunch of voters.

Texas state Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo might be able to stave off a runoff against one of two men who are challenging him for his Texas Senate District 31 seat.

Mike Canon of Midland is running No. 2 with nearly half the vote counted; Victor Leal of Amarillo is running in third place.

Which brings to mind this notion: It might be that the TEA Party wing, powered by Empower Texans, has split what I call the “nut-case wing” of the Texas Republican Party, leaving Seliger to harvest what I consider to be the “reasonable wing” of the Grand Old Party.

We’re still some distance from the Texas GOP primary finish line.

But … I am hoping.

This gadfly is baaack!

Mary Alice Brittain once ran for public office in Amarillo, Texas. She lost the mayor’s race to Kel Seliger, who thumped her badly in that contest.

Then she disappeared from public view. I thought she’d never be heard from or seen again. Silly me. I was wrong.

She’s back, nagging her former foe. Brittain now lives in San Antonio, far from the Texas Panhandle and nowhere near the West Texas Senate District 31 seat Seliger has served since 2004.

She’s now backing Victor Leal, one of two challengers who’s trying to sling enough mud at Seliger to defeat him. Brittain has been posting material on Facebook, which I guess is her social medium of choice.

Check it out

Here’s why this brief blog post is worth my limited amount of time. It’s that Brittain knows nothing about Seliger or the job he has done for his Senate district.

What’s more, when she ran for the mayor’s office, she displayed a remarkable streak of ignorance about the office she sought. She put out a political ad that called on “good Republicans” to rally behind her candidacy.

This idiocy was remarkable for a single reason: The Amarillo City Commission (as it was called then) is a non-partisan body. Commissioners and the mayor don’t run on partisan ballots.

Brittain didn’t know that. Thus, she was unfit for that office.

And while she is entitled to weigh in on this race, I feel compelled to put this person’s political credibility — or lack thereof — into its proper context.