Tag Archives: Texas Legislature

Sen. Seliger? No one is perfect

I have spent a good deal of emotional capital via this blog speaking on behalf of state Sen. Kel Seliger, the Amarillo Republican who’s fighting for re-election to the Texas Senate.

My view is a simple one: Seliger is head and shoulders above the two men challenging him in the GOP primary: Victor Leal of Amarillo and Mike Canon of Midland.

He has done a good job representing West Texas. He has acquainted himself with the unique issues in the Permian Basin as well as the Panhandle, from where Seliger hails.

I’ve laid down that marker yet again, but I do have a caveat.

Sen. Seliger isn’t perfect. He does have a vote in the recent legislative session that I want to revisit briefly. Seliger voted in favor of the goofy Bathroom Bill that became one of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s major legislative priorities. Senate Bill 3 then went down the hall to the Texas House of Representatives, where GOP Speaker Joe Straus made damn sure it wouldn’t see the light of day.

You remember the Bathroom Bill, yes? It would have required people to use the public restroom that coincided with the gender assigned to them on their birth certificate. It meant that transgender individuals couldn’t use restrooms in accordance with their current gender. It was discriminatory on its face.

Straus saw that and also noted that business groups — not to mention law enforcement officials — all opposed SB 3.

Seliger’s vote in favor of the bill was not decisive. He joined all other Senate Republicans in backing the bill. I only wish he would have stood up to Patrick on this one, just as he has done on other legislative matters during the two Senate sessions the men have served together.

It well might be that Seliger knew SB 3 was doomed in the House, which enabled him to favor it in the Senate.

OK. So there’s this vote that’s troubling. However, it is far from a dealbreaker, given the (non)quality of the opposition that is challenging Sen. Seliger in the GOP primary.

I have declared already that I consider Seliger to be a friend. I have long respected his commitment to the Panhandle and to West Texas.

But he is as imperfect as the rest of us.

***

Just for kicks, I thought I’d share this post from 2014:

Is Kel Seliger in the wrong party?

Empower Texans, or empower the powerful?

Mailboxes all across the Texas Panhandle are filling up with campaign flyers.

They promote candidates endorsed by some outfit out of Austin called Empower Texans. This PAC represents the far right wing of the Republican Party and it might not surprise anyone reading this blog that it is unloading its heavy fire on three Panhandle legislative incumbents who — and this is so very rich — aren’t conservative enough to suit Empower Texas.

My buddy Jon Mark Beilue has written a fabulous essay for the Amarillo Globe-News that peels the hide off of Empower Texas.

Read it here.

This group baffles me. It has targeted state Sen. Kel Seliger, the Amarillo Republican who’s been in the Senate since 2004. Why try to take down the former Amarillo mayor? He isn’t fond of Michael Quinn Sullivan, the brains and the bankroll behind Empower Texans. He also is a strong proponent of local control which, according to Beilue, runs counter to Empower Texans’ desire to draw power to Austin.

Seliger also isn’t nuts about Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, even though he supports much of Patrick’s legislative agenda.

Empower Texans has endorsed former Midland Mayor Mike Canon, the TEA Party golden boy who speaks in right wing talking points and cliches. Much of the PAC’s money comes from Midland-area oil and natural gas interests.

This group also dislikes state Rep. Four Price, another Amarillo Republican. By almost anyone’s estimation — whether they’re Republican and Democrat — Price has emerged as one of the House’s rising stars. He might become the next speaker of the House when the 2019 Legislature convenes. Empower Texans has tagged Price as a legislator who allegedly “favors” late-term abortions — despite his rock-solid pro-life voting position.

Empower Texans has endorsed Fritch City Manager Drew Brassfield over Price. Here’s a tip for Empower Texans to ponder: Take a look at the Texas Constitution and find the passage that prohibits officials from holding two public offices at the same time. Then it ought to ask Brassfield if he intends to keep his job at Fritch City Hall in the longest-shot chance he gets elected to the House. Brassfield is playing coy on that matter, declining to say whether he’ll quit his day job to go to the Legislature next January.

The Panhandle is being invaded by interests with no particular interest in this region’s representation. Empower Texans seeks to call the legislative shots from somewhere else and is looking for stooges to do its bidding.

Panhandle Republican primary voters need to take heed if they intend to vote for their interests or the interests of a PAC whose leadership doesn’t give a rat’s rear end about this part of Texas.

Beilue quotes someone with extensive knowledge of Panhandle politics:

“It’s intellectually dishonest,” said Sylvia Nugent, a veteran Republican campaign manager and strategist. “I don’t mind a bloody race when you stick to the issues, but they throw a lot of money into intimidating and discrediting a person. They don’t want independent effective members of the legislature. They want sheep.

“I think eventually people will figure them out. They want Neville Chamberlains, people who will appease them. We need to have more Winston Churchills.”

The “Winston Churchills” are in office already, standing for the Texas Panhandle.

Senate race starting to get … nasty

Here come the grenades.

They’re being lobbed at Texas state Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, who is facing a GOP primary challenge from former Midland Mayor Mike Canon and Amarillo restaurant owner Victor Leal.

The live ammo is being tossed by Leal, who has approved a TV ad that accuses Seliger of being “liberal” and “corrupt.” Leal puts the two words together — in that order — at the end of his ad, which seems to equate liberal political views with corruption.

Seliger, meanwhile, is running hard on his own conservative credentials, proclaiming himself to be pro-local control, pro-life and pro-National Rifle Association.

As someone who plans to vote quite soon — my wife and I will be unavailable to vote on March 6, which is primary Election Day — I am taking a keener-than-usual interest in this race.

Just maybe Leal ought to take a deep breath before he airs this ad too many more times. I happen to remember the first time Leal ran for a legislative seat. It was in 2010. He wanted to succeed David Swinford, who retired from his House District 87 seat.

But here’s the deal: Leal had resided for many years in Randall County, which is not part of District 87. He then rented a house in Potter County, which falls within the legislative boundary. Questions arose about whether Leal was residing in the Potter County house.

I will not divulge whether I believe Leal actually lived in that Potter County residence. However, questions surrounding that messy residence matter can — and occasionally do — find their way back to the front burner.

Especially when politicians toss around words such as “corrupt.”

Texas GOP is at war with itself

I never have thought of Greg Abbott of being such an intraparty back-stabber.

But what the heck. The Texas governor is now in open political warfare with a fellow Republican, state Rep. Sarah Davis. He has been running attack ads against Davis, who in turn said she cannot commit to voting for Abbott in the upcoming March Republican primary.

Davis chairs the Texas House General Investigating and Ethics Committee. She criticized Abbott for failing to consider ethics reform in a special session this past summer. Abbott took it personally, I guess.

So he’s been campaigning against Davis, R-West University Place.

This is a rare event. Governors are not known generally as waging battle against politicians from their party. Abbott has tossed that tradition aside by endorsing Davis’s opponent in the GOP primary, Susanna Dokupil.

The anti-Davis ads accuse the incumbent lawmaker of opposing Hurricane Harvey relief and supporting late-term abortions.

This is brutal, yes?

I was out of daily journalism when Greg Abbott was first elected governor. I knew him when he was running for the Texas Supreme Court and later for state attorney general. I always found him to be a cordial gentleman.

He is showing another side of himself as he runs for re-election as governor. To be candid, it’s rather unflattering.

Same song, second verse in Senate District 31

Kel Seliger is running as a conservative West Texan.

He’s trying to avoid being outflanked on his right by a former foe who’s returning for yet another run at the veteran Texas state senator. Seliger also faces another interesting opponent … who hails from Seliger’s own end of the sprawling Senate district.

It’s the same song, second verse for Seliger. This time, though, he is making it crystal clear that he considers himself to be as conservative as his opponents.

I’ve known Seliger for as long as I have lived in Amarillo. That would be 23-plus years. He was the city’s mayor when I assumed my post as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News. He did a sound, solid — if not spectacular — job as mayor. Then he left office, was a civilian for a time and then he ran for the Senate after the late Teel Bivins was tapped in 2004 by President Bush to become the U.S. ambassador to Sweden.

What I find so fascinating about Seliger’s latest re-election bid are the visuals he is employing in his TV ads. One of them shows Seliger driving away in his pickup truck with two stickers in the rear window: “NRA” and one that declares Seliger to be “100 percent pro-life.”

He’s kind of in our face regarding his conservatism, yes?

Mike Canon is one of Seliger’s foes. Canon ran against Seliger in 2014. He contended four years ago that Seliger wasn’t conservative enough. Canon is a favorite of the Texas version of the TEA Party. He speaks in platitudes and cliches. He did it in 2014 and is doing so again this time.

Seliger isn’t responding to Canon directly. Instead he merely is reminding us of his commitment to the Second Amendment, his opposition to abortion and his insistence that local control of school money is more important than ceding that control to the state.

Again … conservative principles.

Oh, but now we have Victor Leal of Amarillo in the hunt. Leal also is running as a conservative. Leal runs a popular Amarillo restaurant. He once served as Muleshoe mayor and in 2010 ran for the Texas House District 87 seat vacated by David Swinford; Leal lost to Four Price.

What makes me scratch my head is whether Leal is running merely to muddy this race up a bit. I once asked him whether he intended to win. He said yes, absolutely. He’s in it to win it.

But here we are. Three men are running as conservatives. Two of them say the incumbent isn’t conservative enough. The incumbent says he is, even though he makes no secret of his disdain for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who runs the Senate and who also is running as a “principled conservative.”

It’s going to get really crowded on the right-wing fringe, as Canon and Leal keep pushing Seliger in that direction.

My own sense is that Sen. Seliger need not prove a thing. He is the real thing and he does represent Texas Senate District 31 well enough to merit re-election.

Yes, he is a conservative. He just chooses to speak in detail about the legislative process and stays away from TEA Party demagoguery.

Candidacy still a head-scratcher

Drew Brassfield’s candidacy for the Texas House of Representatives is still causing some curiosity in my noggin.

He’s currently the Fritch city manager. He is seeking the Republican Party primary nomination to Texas House District 87, which currently is held by another Republican, Four Price of Amarillo.

I have raised the question about potential ethical concerns if in the event hell does freeze over and Brassfield actually defeats Price in the GOP primary next month.

One specific concern comes to mind. It involves campaign contributions from potential vendors who might want to do business with the city of Fritch.

Consider this hypothetical matter: The city wants to build some new structures, say, at a municipal park. It puts the project out for bid. Contractors submit bids to do the work. One of them decides to make a significant contribution to the city manager’s political fund. Is the contractor then eliminated from consideration because of the bid? If so, does the city deny someone a chance to present the most cost-effective bid possible? If not, then what kind of pressure does the city manager face in determining which contractor gets the job?

This presents in my mind one of the difficulties that occur when a current government administrator seeks election to another public office. That’s also why Texas ethics rules and provisions ought to frown on this mixing of public responsibilities.

I don’t expect this matter to get in anyone’s way after the March 6 primary election. I fully expect Rep. Price to be nominated by voters in his party for another term, which means election to another two years, given the absence of any Democrats on the ballot.

The issue, though, still needs to be considered to avoid venturing too far into the proverbial sticky wicket.

This contest doesn’t pass the smell test

I have watched political contests with keen interest for nearly four decades.

I’ve seen curious matchups to be sure. An upcoming Republican Party primary race in the Texas Panhandle, though, has me scratching my noggin. I’m seriously scratching it … hard!

State Rep. Four Price of Amarillo is facing a primary challenge from Panhandle resident Drew Brassfield. Who is the challenger? He’s a first-time political candidate who also happens to serve as the city manager of Fritch.

“I want the voters to have an option, and I think the voters around here want conservative leadership,” Brassfield told the Amarillo Globe-News. There you have it. Conservative leadership. Yeah.

Of all the political campaigns I witnessed up close during my years in journalism, this one features the first one involving a full-time municipal administrator seeking a partisan political office.

It’s not illegal for a city administrator to run for a public office. It somehow seems to stink just a little bit. It doesn’t pass the proverbial smell test.

Why is that? Well, suppose Brassfield were to be elected, which is highly unlikely, given my understanding of Price’s standing within Texas House District 87. How would be possibly be able to serve the residents of Fritch while serving in the Texas Legislature for a minimum of five months every odd-numbered year?

I don’t have a dog in this particular fight. I am registered to vote in Randall County, so I cannot cast a ballot for House District 87.

However, were I to get a chance to pose a single question to Drew Brassfield, I would ask him how he intends to hold two publicly funded jobs at the same time. And I would want to know how in the world he could continue to serve in his full-time day job while traveling throughout a multi-county legislative district searching for votes.

There’s just damn little about this fellow’s candidacy that feels good.

I believe there might be an ethics issue to resolve.

‘I am not a politician’: Sure thing, pal

I always snicker under my breath, sometimes out loud, when I hear politicians say, “I am not a politician.”

A Texas Panhandle candidate for the Texas Legislature has made such a declaration. He is Richard Beyea, a Republican running for the Texas House District 88 seat now held by fellow Republican Ken King of Canadian.

Why the snicker?

Here’s the thing. Every dictionary definition of the word “politician” I have seen defines the word as someone who seeks political office or is “active” in politics. Thus, Beyea — who I do not know — becomes what he says he isn’t. He’s a politician.

His website touts his business experience and how he has been a conservative “my entire life.”

Let me offer this bit of perspective: John Smithee is a lawyer who also serves in the Texas House; so is Rep. Four Price; Kel Seliger ran a steel company before he ran for the Texas Senate. Pete Laney was a cotton farmer before he ran for the Texas House.

Donald Trump was a hotel magnate before he ran for president; Barack Obama was a law professor before he ran for his first political office; George W. Bush was a big-league baseball team owner before he ran for Texas governor.

On and on it goes. Damn near every single politician who entered politics for the first time can make precisely the claim that Richard Beyea is making.

Maybe this so-called “non-politician” ought to re-calibrate his message. He’s a politician now, by golly.

Seliger re-focuses his re-election strategy

If you want to witness how the fight for the heart and soul of the Republican Party is taking shape, those of us in West Texas need look no further than right here at home.

State Sen. Kel Seliger is in the midst of what could become a hard-fought GOP primary battle against two men who are trying to outflank the Amarillo lawmaker — on the right.

Seliger is having none of it.

This Facebook image tells me how Sen. Seliger is showing off his own brand of conservatism to voters who might have their doubts about him. I also have noticed a significant change in the tone of his TV ads of late.

There’s an ad showing Seliger talking about his desire to see local control have preference over the running of public education. Then he piles into a pickup and drives away; but then you notice a National Rifle Association sticker on this rear window as he puts the pedal to the metal.

Seliger’s two GOP foes — former Midland Mayor Mike Canon and Amarillo restaurant owner Victor Leal — are getting backed by ultraconservative political action groups. Seliger isn’t relying on that kind of political activism, although Amarillo Matters — a local PAC — has signed on with its own endorsement and efforts to push Seliger across the primary election finish line well ahead of his challengers.

Let me be clear: I want Seliger to return to the Texas Senate, where he has served with clear-headed distinction since 2004.

Seliger’s endorsement from the NRA doesn’t exactly thrill me. I am no fan of the NRA and its hard-core resistance to any kind of legislation that seeks to end the scourge of gun violence. That group’s backing of Seliger, though, doesn’t dissuade me from backing his re-election bid.

What I find fascinating about Seliger is his knowledge of all the issues relating to the sprawling District 31, which runs from the very top of the Panhandle to the Permian Basin, which is about 400 miles — or about a seven-hour drive just one way. As I’ve noted, Seliger — a Borger native — is just as fluent in Permian Basin-speak as he is in Panhandle-speak.

His immediate political goal is to win the GOP primary in March outright. He doesn’t want to end up in a runoff. So, to avoid that possibility Seliger is highlighting his brand of conservative values. It’s not a holier-than-thou brand. Instead it is a level-headed realization of the constituency he represents.

If he is looking for any political advice on how to avoid a runoff, perhaps he should seek it from Potter County Judge Nancy Tanner, who in 2014 managed to win her primary race outright, with four other candidates on the ballot; and to think that Tanner pulled off that feat in her first political campaign.

Let it be said, too, that Sen. Seliger is no novice.

Cell phone law: How goes the enforcement?

I posted a blog item five years ago this month wondering about the enforcement of a citywide ban on cell phone use while driving a motor vehicle.

The Amarillo City Commission imposed a ban. Then I noticed at the time that the use of cell phones by drivers seemed to diminish so very little since the enactment of the ordinance.

Anti-cellphone law tough to enforce

I hoped in 2013 that the Texas Legislature would enact a statewide ban. It took four years, but the 2017 Legislature did what many of us had hoped: It passed a bill that bans cell phone use while driving throughout the state.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill into law. I applauded the Legislature and the governor for doing what I consider to be the correct thing.

But the question is as pertinent today as it was five years ago: How are the police enforcing this law?

Even since enactment of the statewide ban my wife and I continue to spot motorists driving while holding a cell phone to their ear. I haven’t been privy to any stats on the matter, but I would be most interested in knowing how the cops are handling this issue.

I suggested in January 2013 that the city might want to consider launching an intense public relations campaign to alert motorists of the anti-cell phone ordinance. The city didn’t take my advice. Imagine my (non)surprise.

So, how about a statewide campaign?

Signage at every highway entry point into the state might alert motorists coming into Texas. As for those of us who live here, public service announcements telling Texans of the penalty associated with cell phone use would be appropriate.

I continue to support wholeheartedly the state’s decision to ban this idiotic behind-the-wheel behavior. I have admitted to waffling a bit on this issue until I decided that a mandated ban was the right course to take.

I also continue to believe that government — state and local alike — can be more proactive in alerting motorists that they are breaking the law when they insist on talking on a handheld device while driving a 5,000-pound missile.