Tag Archives: Texas GOP

Insurgents vs. Establishment … in Senate District 31?

West Texas might turn out to be something of a battleground during this spring’s Republican Party primary season.

The party is engaging in a battle among its members: Establishment Wing vs. the Insurgent Wing.

The Insurgents are being led in a fashion by the president of the United States, Donald J. Trump. The Establishment is being called into battle by members of the congressional leadership.

The implications for West Texas’s sprawling Texas Senate District 31 contest? They might lie in the challenge awaiting incumbent state Sen. Kel Seliger, the Amarillo Republican and a stalwart of the Texas Establishment Wing. He chairs the Senate Higher Education Committee and serves as well on the Education Committee.

He is facing two challengers in the GOP primary. He knows them both well. One is former Midland Mayor Mike Canon, a TEA Party favorite who challenged Seliger four years ago; Canon lost the GOP primary by about 5 percentage points. The other is Victor Leal, an Amarillo restaurant owner who touts his Muleshoe mayorship as giving him the requisite government administrative experience.

It gets a bit complicated, however.

Seliger isn’t exactly a fan of the Senate’s presiding officer, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Seliger declined to join the rest of the Senate Republican caucus in signing a letter of endorsement for Patrick’s own re-election bid. I don’t know this as fact, but my strong hunch is that Lt. Gov. Patrick is unhappy with Seliger over this snub.

Who, then, is he backing for the Senate District 31 seat? It’s likely not going to be Sen. Seliger. It might be Canon or Leal … or maybe both!

There’s some political chatter in the Panhandle that suggests that Leal, who ran unsuccessfully for the Texas House District 87 seat in 2010 that former GOP Rep. David Swinford vacated, is running as a spoiler. He intends to peel off enough Panhandle votes that normally would go to Seliger with the hope of forcing a runoff. Leal would say he’s in it to win it and would deny playing the spoiler role. I also can presume that Leal hopes to be one of the two men squaring off in a possible GOP runoff.

Seliger is intent on avoiding a runoff. He plans to pull out all the stops to ensure that his Panhandle base turns out in March to carry him to victory. Meanwhile, he vows to ratchet up his visibility in the southern reaches of the geographically huge Senate district. He maintains a district office in Midland and over the 13 years representing District 31 has become as fluent in Permian Basin-speak as he is in Panhandle-speak. The regions are part of the same district, but their issues are unique.

Canon, meanwhile, likely intends to seek to outflank Seliger on the right, which he sought to do in 2014. Seliger’s campaign material speaks openly, though, about how he is able to deliver “conservative values” to his Senate district constituents.

Will it be enough to stave off this two-headed challenge on his right, one from the Permian Basin and the other from within his own Panhandle base?

Readers of this blog know my own preference. It is that I want Seliger to win outright.

However, I am not going to predict any such outcome. I’ll just wait right along with the rest of the state to see how this internal partisan conflict plays out.

Lt. Gov. Patrick earns this ‘honor’

Texas Monthly has named Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick as its recipient of the Bum Steer of the Year Award.

Good call, Texas Monthly.

The magazine bestowed the “honor” on Patrick because of a monstrosity called Senate Bill 6, aka the Bathroom Bill.

TM notes that Patrick was hellbent to get this bill passed out of both legislative chambers in 2017. Except that he ran into a small — no, major — obstacle: House Speaker Joe Straus, a fellow Republican, was having none of it.

Straus, according to TM, said the Legislature had many more important issues to ponder than to decide whether to require people to use restroom facilities in accordance with the gender assigned on their birth certificates.

SB 6 was designed to discriminate against transgender individuals. Speaker Straus said “no can do.” He didn’t want the House to follow the Senate’s lead. He blocked SB 6 in the Legislature’s regular session and then followed suit during the special session that Gov. Greg Abbott called.

Texas Monthly called the Bathroom Bill effort “a master class in waste.”

Thanks, of course, to the efforts of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Yep, he’s the Bum Steer of the Year.

‘Conservative Republicans’ are selling their wares

COLLIN COUNTY, Texas — Driving around this North Texas county revealed to me something I never appreciated until now.

It is that Republicans who call themselves “conservative Republicans” must mean they are seriously committed to their ideology.

You see, it’s always been understood that Republicans are more conservative than Democrats.

As we enter the 2018 midterm election season, I noticed a number of campaign lawn signs touting a candidate’s conservative credentials.

Now, when I see the words “conservative” and “Republican” displayed in that sequence, I conclude that the individual is seriously Republican.

I know that this suburban Dallas county tilts heavily toward the GOP. Indeed, all of North Texas leans in that direction, with the notable exception of Dallas County, which voted twice for Barack Obama and then for Hillary Clinton in the past three presidential elections.

I thought today of how campaign signage is displayed in Potter and Randall counties. There, in the Panhandle — the symbolic birthplace of modern Texas Republicanism — one doesn’t even see candidates displaying their party affiliation. In Amarillo — which straddles the counties’ common border — it’s simply understood that candidates are running in the Republican Party primary.

The differences in the campaign characteristics of both regions seemed to jump out at me. In Amarillo, the candidates don’t boast about their conservatism. Here? Boy, howdy! They shout it, man!

Is hell about to freeze over?

Hell is going to have to freeze over if Greg Abbott is going to lose his bid for re-election next year as Texas governor.

This is not a statement of preference, mind you. I’m merely stating what I believe is a stark reality facing any challenger who might square off against him.

A Texas Tribune analysis points out that eight Democrats are lining up to run in the state’s primary next spring. Ross Ramsey believes the early Democratic favorite is likely Lupe Valdez, the recently resigned Dallas County sheriff. Another key Democratic challenger could be Andrew White, son of the late Gov. Mark White.

Read Ramsey’s article here.

Valdez has won election and re-election several times in the state’s second-most populous county, Ramsey points out.

But if she wins the Democratic primary — which is a huge first test —  get a load of the hurdle she faces. She is going to seek to become the first governor on a couple of important levels … and Texas has not been known in recent years as a place prone to establish significant political precedent.

First, Valdez is a Latina. She wants to become the first Latina ever elected governor. Indeed, the state never has elected anyone of Latin American descent. That’s one hurdle.

Here’s the big one: Valdez is openly gay.

She wants, therefore, to become the first openly gay, Latina candidate ever elected governor.

I feel the need to point out that Texas voters a few years ago approved an amendment to the Texas Constitution that outlawed same-sex marriage, even though there already was a statute on the books that prohibited it. That didn’t matter. The state’s voters said not just “no,” but “hell no!” to gay marriage.

Do you believe Valdez can win the governor’s race in a state that has enacted a double-whammy prohibition against same-sex marriage?

As the Tribune piece illustrates, whoever wins the Democratic primary is going to face an enormous task as he or she seeks to topple a Republican incumbent governor.

As Ramsey describes Abbott: He’s a well-financed, popular figurehead for a political party that hasn’t lost a statewide election in Texas in almost three decades.

But … you never know. Hell could get mighty cold.

Evangelical infatuation with Trump still confuses

Someone has to explain something to me in simple language.

My question goes like this: How does Donald J. Trump continue to hold tightly onto support from the evangelical Christian community?

I ask because of a blog posted by R.G. Ratcliffe in Texas Monthly. Ratcliffe writes about a potential Republican challenger for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz next year from an evangelical TV network executive who is angry that Cruz didn’t endorse Trump at the 2016 Republican presidential nominating convention.

The challenge might come from Bruce K. Jacobson Jr., vice president for LIFE Outreach International and an aide to James Robison, a noted televangelist.

I do not get this! Honest! It confuses me in the extreme!

Christians line up behind Trump

The president of the United States would seem to be totally anathema to the evangelical movement, given the president’s past. He has bragged about his marital infidelity; he has admitted to groping women; he never has been associated with faith-based causes or associated openly with religious organizations.

Sen. Cruz has been much friendlier to evangelical causes than Trump ever had been prior to his becoming president. Jacobson, though, holds Cruz’s non-endorsement at the RNC in 2016 against him.

As Ratcliffe writes: Cruz had signed a pledge to support the party’s nominee, Jacobson said, but then didn’t follow through at the convention. “I’m concerned about anybody who doesn’t keep their word. I’ve very concerned about that. In Texas, when we give our word, it’s our word,” Jacobson said.

If memory serves, Cruz made that pledge early in the GOP presidential primary campaign, only to be humiliated personally by Trump’s insults and lies. Trump disparaged Cruz’s wife with a cruel tweet and then suggested the senator’s father was linked somehow to the assassination of President Kennedy. Cruz called Trump an “amoral” liar, which I also happen to believe he is.

Did the eventual Republican nominee conduct himself as a “good Christian” with that kind of behavior?

I don’t know about you, but I am not at all surprised — nor displeased — that Ted Cruz chose not to “endorse” Trump at the 2016 Republican convention.

So here we are. Cruz stood on a principle of fair treatment and for that he might get a Republican Party primary challenge from an evangelical Christian leader?

Explain it to me. Please.

Will this Senate race really become a contest?

My wife and I sat across a restaurant dinner table recently with friends in Colorado when the question came from one of them.

“Do you think Ted Cruz is going to get beat next year by that guy from El Paso?” our friend asked.

I had to answer honestly. “No. I don’t think it’s going to happen,” I said.

Cruz is the first-term Republican U.S. senator I have labeled as the Cruz Missile. The guy from El Paso is a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives named Beto O’Rourke.

Both are young men. Both are dynamic in their respective ways. Cruz, though, holds all the cards in this year’s election cycle. Why? The answer is clear cut: He is a Republican running for re-election in what clearly is among the most Republican-friendly states in the United States of America.

O’Rourke is seeking to mine what Democrats believe is the changing demographic makeup of Texas. They are hoping that with more Latino residents who tend to vote for Democrats that O’Rourke will be able to knock Cruz out of the Senate.

I am no fan of Ted Cruz. He has shown himself to be a blowhard and showboat since taking office in 2013.

I believe I am a realist, though, in trying to assess the political landscape in Texas.

Voters here seem obsessed with voting for Republicans. I see no change in the state’s GOP-leaning pattern in 2018. It seems the only thing that can derail a Cruz re-election would be a scandal of monumental proportions.

I don’t see it happening.

Beto O’Rourke might be the perfect candidate for the U.S. Senate. Except that he’s running in Texas, which hasn’t elected a Democrat to statewide office since 1994. The losing streak isn’t about to end.

Sad.

Speaker Price? Sure, why not? But only if …

Four Price is a friend of mine who I’ve known for about two decades.

Having gotten that disclosure out of the way, you may take my endorsement of the Amarillo Republican lawmaker’s potential candidacy for speaker of the Texas House of Representatives for what it’s worth.

I believe he would make a smashing speaker.

But here’s the important caveat I want to attach to it: I want him to follow the lead set by his good buddy, the current speaker who’s leaving the Legislature after the 2018 election.

Joe Straus, a San Antonio Republican, is quitting politics. He calls the atmosphere too “divisive” and too “partisan.” He sought to run the House of Representatives with a bipartisan touch. He worked with Democrats as well as Republicans.

That sense of political comity cost Straus support among the hard-core Republicans who believe he had become a Republican In Name Only, a dreaded RINO.

I don’t sense that Price, also a Republican, believes that of his friend and colleague. I believe it would be pure folly for Price to buckle under the pressure that some of the right-wingnuts are going to exert.

One of them happens to run the Texas Senate. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick locked horns with Speaker Straus over that damn Bathroom Bill that died a well-deserved death in this summer’s special legislative session. The bill would have required transgender people to use public restrooms in accordance to their birth certificate gender. Patrick wanted the bill passed into law; Straus resisted, earning him the scorn of county GOP organizations, including the Randall County Republican Party, which resolved to support someone else for speaker in the 2019 session.

So, to my friend Four Price, I ask only this: If you’re going to run for speaker, please resist the temptation to tilt too far to the right. Do not forsake the millions of Texans — such as yours truly — who believe that moderation is critical to effective governing.

All hell is about to break loose in Austin

You want to hear the rumble of thunder under your feet?

Put your ear to the ground and get a load of the racket emanating from a Texas legislator’s announcement that he won’t seek re-election in 2018.

That would be House Speaker Joe Straus, a San Antonio Republican, who stood firm, tall and steady against the onslaught of the far right within his party. Straus is calling it quits.

The Texas Tribune is reporting that a political earthquake is under way in Austin. A Rice University political scientist says the “political center in Texas” has just collapsed.

That might be the truth.

Straus fought against the TEA Party and other fringe elements within the Republican Party. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick sought to shove the Bathroom Bill down our throats. Straus was having none of it; a bill that would require people to use public restrooms according to the gender noted on their birth certificate. The Bathroom Bill discriminates against transgendered individuals and Straus wouldn’t stand for it.

His stubborn refusal to let the bill get a vote in the House has drawn the outrage from those on the right. So the speaker is out of there.

And the successors are starting the line up. One of them might be a friend of mine, Rep. Four Price, an Amarillo Republican first elected to the House in 2010. I asked Price about the speaker’s future a few weeks ago, but he said he was standing behind his guy, Straus.

Now that the speaker is on his way out, there exists an opportunity for one of Straus’s key lieutenants — that would be Price — to step in and maintain the moderate tone that the House ought to keep.

As the Texas Tribune reports: More than any other Texas Republican with real power, Straus was seen as a voice of moderation. On issue after issue, he and his team alone stood in the way of the kind of runaway populism that Donald Trump championed and major statewide Republicans endorsed.

Here’s the Tribune article

Will another moderate step up? Might it be Four Price? And would a Speaker Price resist the pressure that’s sure to come hard from the far right?

Meanwhile, the ground continues to rumble.

Is there a West Texas primary donnybrook in the making?

That old trick knee of mine is flaring up again.

It’s throbbing so much that I am beginning to think that West Texas Republican voters are facing the prospect of a serious donnybrook in the race for the state Senate District seat now held by Amarillo businessman Kel Seliger.

My critics are all too willing to remind me that the trick knee isn’t nearly as reliable as I’ve suggested it is. But that’s all right. It’s telling me that Seliger is going to have to fend off some serious criticism from two GOP primary foes. The criticism well might center on the senator’s decision against endorsing Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s own re-election bid in 2018.

I have read Sen. Seliger’s comments on this decision. He said he’ll “support” Patrick — I presume with his vote. He just won’t declare his endorsement out loud in public, for the record.

Seliger’s decision drew a hair-trigger response from Amarillo restauranteur Victor Leal, who suggested that Seliger is turning his back on the Senate’s presiding officer. I am guessing that Leal is going to endorse Patrick, one of the Texas GOP’s more vivid ideologues. Seliger isn’t wired the same way, and my hunch is that his own legislative temperament — which differs greatly from Patrick — has compelled him to withhold his active endorsement of the lieutenant governor.

The third Senate District 31 Republican candidate, former Midland Mayor Mike Canon, likely will seek to gain some political leverage, too. He’s a TEA Party kind of guy, which also runs anathema to Seliger’s more measured and studied approach to legislating.

Seliger has told local media that he expects a tough fight. I will presume he’ll prepare for one as well. It is my hope that he preps for a bruising campaign and gets ready to rumble with Leal and Canon.

Leal is a known quantity in the northern half of the Panhandle; Canon’s base is in the Permian Basin. Seliger, a former Amarillo mayor, has managed to make his presence felt down yonder in the southern part of the sprawling district.

I’ve already revealed my bias in this race; I want Sen. Seliger to win the nomination, which in this district is tantamount to election.

The only bit of advice I can give Seliger — based on my trick knee — is to get his opposition research ready and to respond quickly and forcefully to the attacks that are sure to come his direction.

Seliger won’t ‘endorse’ Lt. Gov. Patrick; imagine that

I just know in my bones that I am not the only observer who saw this one coming.

Texas state Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, has decided he won’t endorse fellow Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in 2018. Seliger said he won’t endorse anyone else; he said he intends to “support” Patrick — whatever the hell that means.

He just won’t “endorse” him, preferring to concentrate on his own re-election bid for the Senate District 31 seat he’s held since 2004.

Not a single aspect of this surprises me.

Seliger hasn’t been one of Patrick’s guys in the Senate. Sure, he’s backed much of Patrick’s agenda during the 2017 legislative session. He bolted on a couple of key issues:  a bill that restricts local property tax increases and a bill that sought to subsidize the cost of private schools.

Patrick announced that 19 of 20 state GOP senators were endorsing his re-election. Seliger’s name was absent from the list of Republican lawmakers. Is the Amarillo Republican worried? Hardly.

Seliger faces stern test for re-election

Indeed, Seliger already is getting set for a rough-and-tumble GOP primary battle in Senate District 31. Seliger will run against former Midland Mayor Mike Canon — who lost to Seliger in 2014 — and Amarillo businessman Victor Leal.

I’ll stipulate once again that I want Seliger to be renominated. I also will stipulate that I am no fan of Lt. Gov. Patrick, who I consider to be a ideological blowhard. Seliger is not. He is a serious legislative technician who I believe works hard at understanding the issues pertinent to the vast Senate district he represents.

I am going to presume that Seliger understands that he works for West Texas voters, not the guy who presides over the Texas Senate.