Tag Archives: Kel Seliger

Panhandle trio makes senator jealous?

Texas state Sen. Tommy Williams came to Canyon to take part in an interesting event put on by the Texas Tribune, but offered a comparison that I cannot let pass without some comment.

Williams, a Republican from the Houston area, was on hand at West Texas A&M University to honor state Reps. Four Price and John Smithee and state Sen. Kel Seliger, all Amarillo Republicans. He joked about how jealous he is that the three of them get along so well, unlike his colleagues in Southeast Texas, who — according to Williams — don’t enjoy the same level of legislative collegiality.

The reference drew some laughs in the packed room at the Jack B. Kelley Student Center. The Tribune’s editor in chief and CEO Evan Smith moderated a discussion with the three legislators, grilling them with questions about the state of the state, water planning, infrastructure development, taxes, education … the whole range of issues.

Back to Williams’s brief expression of envy …

Of course Smithee, Price and Seliger get along. They’re all from the same party and they all represent constituencies that look virtually identical. They’re three peas in a pod, triplets, if you prefer.

Williams, however, represents a part of the state where residents — let alone officeholders — cannot agree on the time of day.

I lived for 11 years in Beaumont, which comprises part of Williams’s Senate District 4. I know the region pretty well. It’s contentious, hot-headed, racially and ethnically mixed and politically diverse with a healthy portion of Democrats and Republicans finding reasons to disagree with each other.

For all I know, there might even be some Cajun influence at work there, with typically opinionated Cajuns named Boudreau, Thibideaux and Guidry preferring to disagree rather than work together.

It doesn’t surprise me in the least that Williams would draw such a comparison between his region of the state and this one. It’s also why I found the upper Texas Gulf Coast such a fascinating place to live and work for more than a decade.

It is a journalist’s version of Heaven on Earth, made that way by the contentiousness that is inbred in the good and colorful folks who live there.

‘Grudge match’ emerges in Senate District 31

Texas Monthly editor/blogger Paul Burka has spilled the beans on the motive for the race that’s developing in Texas Senate District 31.

Turns out, according to Burka, that former Midland Mayor Mike Canon was recruited to run against Sen. Kel Seliger by Michael Quinn Sullivan, the tea party activist and political operator.


There’s plenty of bad blood between Seliger and Sullivan.

Seliger, indeed, has told me repeatedly over the years that he cannot stomach Sullivan’s hyper-conservative world view and the obstructionism he promotes within the Texas Legislature.

So, there you have it. My concern about Canon appears to be playing out. He’s running to Seliger’s right. I am guessing he’ll tack far to the right of the former Amarillo mayor.

Canon will want to do away with the Senate’s two-thirds rule, the one that requires 21 senators to approve any bill that goes to a vote. He’s likely to push hard to the right on issues such as immigration, state spending on public education and some environmental policies.

Seliger hardly has been a screaming lefty on all or any of these issues. If it’s true, as Burka suggests, that this challenge is the product of Sullivan’s personal antipathy toward Seliger, then the state — not to mention the West Texas Senate district Seliger represents — would be ill-served if voters turn against the incumbent.

Seliger draws GOP challenger; good deal

Incumbents have hated for years my mantra that none of them deserves to be sent back to office without a challenge.

Former state Rep. David Swinford, R-Dumas, would get particularly agitated with me as I extolled the virtue of forcing incumbents to explain themselves, their votes, their policies — why they do what they do on our behalf.

My answer: Too bad, David. That’s why we have elections.

Well, another legislative incumbent, state Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, has drawn a primary challenger. He is former Midland mayor Mike Canon, who told the Texas Tribune he intends to file his candidacy papers.


The Tribune’s Ross Ramsey notes that Canon’s candidacy could fuel a rivalry between the northern and southern ends of the massive Senate District 31, one of the largest geographically in the state. Given that the state’s population growth has occurred in regions east of here — and given that the law requires each Senate district to have roughly equal populations — that means West Texas districts’ borders keep getting expanded.

There’s long been a bit of tension between north and south in District 31. Before Seliger was elected in 2004, the district was represented by the late Teel Bivins, another stalwart Amarillo Republican; Bivins went on to be appointed ambassador to Sweden. Seliger defeated another ex-Midland mayor in that year’s primary. His most recent GOP challenge came in 2012 from a one-term school trustee from Odessa, whom Seliger trounced in the primary.

On one hand, it’s good for Seliger to be tested by someone within his own party. Primary challenges, indeed contested general elections, serve to keep incumbents on their game and enable them to explain to their constituents why they vote the way they do.

But there might some trouble brewing in this challenge. I don’t know Canon, but I’m going to make a broad presumption that he might be running to Seliger’s right, meaning he comes from the tea party wing of his party. This is the party wing that favors confrontation instead of compromise. Many tea party loyalists in Congress and in state legislators have been known to frown upon Republicans getting too chummy with those dreaded Democrats. Seliger over the years has told me of the friendships he’s developed with legislative Democrats; state Sen. Chuy Hinojosa comes to mind, as he and Seliger apparently are pretty good pals.

As Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst learned the hard way when he lost the GOP primary for the U.S. Senate to Ted Cruz, there’s danger in getting outflanked on the right. Dewhurst tried to tack to the right but it was too late. Cruz inflicted politically mortal wounds on Dewhurst.

Would a challenge from the right, were it to develop, push Seliger farther to at extreme end of the spectrum?

I’m hoping for Seliger’s sake — and for Senate District 31 voters — he stays the course.

Patrick seeks more partisan Senate

There can be no misunderstanding — zero, none — of what state Sen. Dan Patrick wants to do to the Texas Senate if Texans elect him lieutenant governor next month.

He wants to destroy the bipartisan atmosphere that often has helped govern the state’s upper legislative chamber. That effort, in my view, would be a bad thing for Texas.

Texas Tribune editor in chief Evan Smith’s interview with Patrick revealed the senator’s plans quite clearly.


Patrick is running against the incumbent, David Dewhurst, as well as against Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples in a crowded Republican primary. I cannot predict who will win this contest, but it’s looking more and more as though Dewhurst is among the underdogs in the fight for the man’s own seat.

Patrick recently chastised Dewhurst for selecting six Democrats to chair the Senate’s 18 committees, which is roughly proportional to the number of Democrats serving in the Senate. The count today is 19 Republicans and 12 Democrats. Dewhurst, therefore, has doled out chairmanships fairly, correct? Not so, says Patrick, R-Houston, who told Smith he might place, oh, maybe two Democrats in chairmanships … or he may select none for the 2015 Legislature.

Dewhurst, to his discredit, failed to fight back against that criticism, suggesting in a gutless response instead that the Democrats he placed in chairmanships led committees of little legislative consequence.

The lieutenant governor, whether it was Dewhurst, or Rick Perry before him, or Bob Bullock or Bill Hobby, all strived to maintain a semblance of collegiality and bipartisanship in the Senate, over which the lieutenant governor presides. That’s why they cross party lines to place senators from the “other” party in key leadership roles. Dewhurst and Perry, both Republicans, have been faithful to that tradition, as were Bullock and Hobby, two Democrats.

That spirit also has produced the two-thirds rule, which requires any bill to have at least 21 votes before it is decided by a full Senate vote. Many Republican senators, such as Kel Seliger of Amarillo, have said they support the two-thirds rule.

Patrick does not appear to have any notion of preserving that collegial spirit in the Senate.

For my money, that’s one key reason why he shouldn’t be elected lieutenant governor of Texas.