Two big surprises highlighted my watching of the Republican primary elections Tuesday night.
One of them is quite good; the other is potentially troubling.
First, the good.
Nancy Tanner’s victory in the GOP primary for Potter County judge caught me off-guard, but it does demonstrate that competence and experience can win an argument over name identification and relative sizzle.
Tanner is going to take over the county judge’s duties at the first of the year. The GOP voters of the county showed that they appreciate her two decades serving as administrative assistant to Arthur Ware, the current judge who’s stepping down.
Ware had fired Tanner from her job in 2013 for reasons that haven’t been explained fully. Tanner had just made known her intention to run for Ware’s seat after he had announced his impending retirement from public life. Ware had been slowed considerably by a devastating stroke he suffered in 2010, leaving Tanner and other county officials to perform many of the duties attached to the county judge’s office.
It was her experience and intimate knowledge of the nuts and bolts of county government that made Tanner the most qualified of the five candidates running for the office.
Which brings me to the surprise. I was quite sure no one was going to win this primary outright. I figured it would be two of three top-tier candidates — Tanner, former Amarillo Mayor Debra McCartt and Bill Bandy — competing in a runoff.
Silly me. I underestimated the wisdom of the voters.
State Sen. Kel Seliger’s hair-raising win over former Midland Mayor Mike Canon provided the other surprise.
Seliger, R-Amarillo, by all rights should have won that race in a walk. He’s smart, articulate, knowledgeable, calm, reasonable, effective, collegial, detail-oriented, friendly … what am I missing? Whatever. He deserved to be re-elected to the Senate District 31 seat he’s filled since 2004.
Then came Canon, who began accusing Seliger of being a closet liberal, which is fightin’ words in this part of the political world. The word among some observers is that Canon was recruited by Michael Quinn Sullivan, a tea party political operative who over the years has developed a nasty relationship with Seliger.
Even given the Texas political climate, I didn’t believe Canon would come as close as he did to defeating Seliger.
There is a potential for concern here. Seliger’s re-election — with no Democrat on the ballot — should not signal a sharp turn to the right for the already-conservative lawmaker. Other elected public officials have reacted badly at times to these challenges from their left or the right by tacking too far in either direction.
My hope is that Seliger is comfortable enough in his own skin to stay the course and keep up the good work he’s already done — such as water planning and funding for public education — on behalf of his constituents.
All in all, where these two races are concerned, the election turned out just fine.