Tag Archives: Texas Senate

As if Sen. Cornyn needs to bend more to the right

I hear that Pat Fallon wants to run against U.S. Sen. John Cornyn next year.

Who is this guy Fallon? He’s a rookie Texas state senator from down the road in Prosper. He got elected to the Senate in 2018 by upsetting longtime Republican incumbent Craig Estes; Fallon is no political novice, though, having served in the Texas House of Representatives before moving to the other chamber at the other end of the State Capitol.

Fallon seems to think Sen. Cornyn isn’t conservative enough. He wants to steer public policy even farther to the right than Cornyn is willing to take it.

Hold on here! Cornyn, to my way of thinking, is pretty damn conservative. What in the world is young Sen. Fallon intending to do that Cornyn hasn’t already done?

Cornyn fought against the creation of the Affordable Care Act, along with everything else that President Barack Obama pitched during his two terms in the White House; he has resisted efforts to strengthen laws controlling firearms purchases; he is avidly anti-abortion rights; he stands pretty damn firmly in Donald Trump’s corner as the impeachment forces start gathering steam.

That isn’t good enough for Fallon … or so it might appear.

Fallon is a darling of what used to be called the TEA Party in Texas. The term “TEA Party” has fallen out of favor. It now operates under the name of the True Texas Project, apparently believing that only the most fervent right-wingers represent the “True Texas.” I happen to believe that is just so much horse manure.

As for Cornyn, he needs a strong challenger from the left, not the right. Cornyn has demonstrated, the way I see it, that he is as conservative in his thinking as almost any member of the U.S. Senate Republican caucus.

Fallon, for his part, sounds more like a stooge for Empower Texans, that ultra-right wing outfit led by Michael Quinn Sullivan, who’s waging a fight of his own with fellow conservative Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Good grief! Texas doesn’t need another GOP primary challenge to yank the state’s senior U.S. senator farther to the right. He’s already on the fringe!

Don’t let NRA bully you, Lt. Gov. Patrick

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is baiting the National Rifle Association with a proposal that makes perfect sense.

The Republican politician is standing behind an idea that would require background checks any purchase of a firearm in what is being called a “stranger-to-stranger transaction.”

The NRA doesn’t like it. One gun lobby official called it a “political gambit.”

My hunch is that the NRA is going to apply maximum pressure on Patrick if he continues to push on this baby-step notion that seeks to make it just a bit more difficult for individuals to buy a firearm from someone they do not know. Indeed, Patrick is likely fueled by the carnage that erupted in El Paso and Odessa, where 29 people died in slaughters in those two West Texas cities.

I appreciate some of the concerns about this matter, such as … how do you enforce it? Still, it seems to make sense to me.

The question for me at this moment, though, is whether Lt. Gov. Patrick — who presides over the Texas Senate — has the courage to stand up against the kind of political pressure the NRA is capable of applying.

I don’t generally support Dan Patrick. I don’t know him personally. I only know of him through his occasional strong-arming of Texas senators.

On this matter, I stand with him. I hope, therefore, he stands firm against the National Rifle Association.

Empower Texans is going after state Sen. Seliger … who knew?

I see political ads on my Facebook news feed from time to time. They are paid for my Empower Texans, my least-favorite far-right political action organization.

Empower Texans apparently has a serious bur under its saddle that bears the name “Kel Seliger.” An ad appeared this morning with a picture of a church, containing this text:

A bill aimed at protecting individuals against losing their occupational license for practicing their faith passed through the Texas Senate. State Sen. Kel Seliger was the lone Republican vote against the bill.

This is the latest in a string of such statements from Empower Texans. They all end with the same notation about Seliger, an Amarillo Republican lawmaker, being the “lone Republican” to vote against a certain bill.

I’ve known Seliger for nearly a quarter century. He was mayor of Amarillo when I arrived in the Panhandle in 1995. He stepped off the public stage for a time and then ran for the Texas Senate in 2004 after the late Sen. Teel Bivins accepted President Bush’s appointment to become U.S. ambassador to Sweden.

Seliger has made no secret of his dislike of Michael Quinn Sullivan, the ideologue who runs Empower Texans. Sullivan has sought twice to defeat Seliger, only to fall flat on his face while the candidates he backed have lost at the ballot box.

Now he seems intent on badgering the lifelong West Texan who in my view has done a fine job representing his sprawling Texas Senate District.

I no longer can vote for Kel each time he runs for re-election to the Senate. I’ve moved away. However, I can keep offering moral support through this blog. And when given the chance to extol his virtues as a legislator who works hard for the entire state, I do not hesitate to do so.

As for Michael Quinn Sullivan and Empower Texans, suffice to say they will not earn my support. They constitute a significant reason for what has gone wrong with Texas politics in the past decade or two. Such far-right rigidity is anathema to my sensibilities.

If only the rest of the state would realize it, too.

Keep the faith and stay strong, Sen. Seliger.

Rep. Taylor wants to get along

I am quite certain that when U.S. Rep. Van Taylor finishes his time in Congress that he will have earned high marks from conservative watchdog groups and political action organizations.

That’s fine. It’s who he is. He also seems to be demonstrating an attitude that’s been missing in the halls of Congress for, oh, several decades. He wants to forge friendships, alliances and partnerships with his colleagues across the aisle.

That’s right. This conservative freshman Republican wants to work with Democrats.

Taylor came to the McKinney Sunrise Rotary Club this morning to make the case that “Congress is broken” and that it needs a few healing hands to repair it. The young man from Plano just might be what the doctor has ordered.

I was impressed with a small gesture he extended to someone who asked him a question, while addressing Taylor as “Congressman,” to which Taylor said, “You can call me ‘Van.’ I work for you. I am the employee here.” He took office just in January, succeeding a living legend in the House, Sam Johnson, also of Plano. More on Johnson in a moment.

The idea that Congress is broken isn’t exactly a “news flash,” Taylor said. “I am trying to build relationships with Democrats. Most bills I sponsor are bipartisan bills,” he said.

Taylor honed his bipartisan leanings serving in the Texas Senate, where he worked prior to being elected to the U.S. House. So he knows about certain rules that promote bipartisanship, such as the Texas Senate’s two-thirds rule that requires at least 20 members to consider legislation on the Senate floor.

He told us this morning that “the proudest day of my time in the Senate was when I got to introduce my congressman,” Rep. Johnson, whose story of heroism during the Vietnam War is legendary, to his  Senate colleagues. He was held captive as a prisoner of war for seven years in the “Hanoi Hilton,” after being shot down and was kept in solitary confinement for four of those horrific years.

Indeed, Taylor’s own military experience commends him well to serve in Congress. He was a Marine Corps intelligence officer. He was on active duty and was planning to leave the Marines while touring the Pentagon, a place he said he had never visited.

Then he watched the Pentagon burn on 9/11. He returned home to North Texas, served in the Marine Corps Reserves and was called up in January 2003 as the nation was preparing to go to war in Iraq. Taylor then served a year in Iraq after the shooting started in March 2003.

So, this newcomer to the Big Show wants to do well. He wants to get things done. He knows the system on Capitol Hill is in bad shape. It needs repair. Taylor acknowledges that Texas congressional Republicans meet regularly with each other, but also wants to further the outreach to include Texas congressional Democrats.

I wish Van well in his search for common ground.

Keep fighting the fight, Sen. Seliger

Stand tall, Kel Seliger. I am with you, my friend.

There you go. I have just laid out my bias in favor of the Amarillo Republican who serves in the Texas Senate representing the sprawling District 31 that stretches from the top of the Panhandle to the Permian Basin.

A thorough Texas Tribune feature story tells how Seliger, who’s served in the Senate since 2004, managed to get on Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s sh** list during the 2019 legislative session.

The way Seliger tells it, he is voting on behalf of his West Texas constituents and doesn’t really give much of a damn about the political agenda being pushed by Patrick, the Senate’s presiding officer.

That, I believe, is what we call “representative democracy.”

Seliger says he’s still “paying penance” in the Senate after Patrick stripped the body’s second-most-senior Republican of his committee chairmanships and his role on other key committees. Patrick blamed his response on what he called “lewd” comments from Seliger toward a key Patrick aide; Seliger believes it’s because he has opposed much of Patrick’s legislative agenda.

Sen. Seliger has occasionally been the lone Senate GOP vote against some legislation, such as the measure to ban cities from deploying red-light cameras aimed at deterring traffic violators. Seliger called it a matter of “local control.” Amen to that, senator!

I’ve known Seliger since 1995, when I arrived in Amarillo to take my post as editorial page editor of the Globe-News. Seliger was mayor of Amarillo at the time. We hit it off right away, developing a thoroughly cordial professional relationship. Over time, it turned into a personal friendship, particularly after he left public office.

Then the senator from Amarillo, the late Teel Bivins, received an ambassadorial appointment from President Bush and Seliger ran to succeed Bivins in District 31. He has served with distinction and dedication to his constituents ever since.

The Tribune article notes that Seliger hasn’t yet committed to running for another term in 2022. He defeated two GOP primary challenges in 2018, winning the nomination without a runoff.

All the while, Seliger has managed to stick it in Patrick’s ear. He was the only Republican senator to not endorse Patrick for re-election in 2018. Why? My best guess is that Patrick is too, um, ideological to suit Seliger’s taste.

Seliger wears his own brand of conservatism proudly. Indeed, he embodies what I believe is a traditional Republican world view, which is that the state need not meddle in matters that local communities can settle themselves.

I believe Seliger is the same man he’s always been. The shift has occurred elsewhere, within the leadership of the Texas Republican Party. I prefer, thus, to stand with my friend as he continues to serve the people who keep electing him to the Texas Senate.

Is this senator in the wrong party?

Kel Seliger likely would disagree vehemently if — and quite probably when — he reads this blog post, but I am going to ask once again a question I posed in a blog entry published some years ago.

Is the West Texas state senator, from Amarillo, in the wrong political party? He ran for election the first time in 2004 as a Republican and has been re-elected every time since then touting his strong “conservative” credentials while a member of the GOP.

But it appears he isn’t conservative enough to suit the arch-conservative Empower Texans, a political action committee that works to elect and re-elect legislators who suit the group’s rigid ideology.

Empower Texans keeps posting these social media items proclaiming how Seliger is the “only” Senate Republican to vote against one of ET’s preferred issues. They blast Seliger because he has the gall to side with Democrats.

To be sure, Seliger is no fan of Empower Texans. He speaks ill of ET’s guru, Michael Quinn Sullivan. Seliger incurred the wrath of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick early in this legislative session and Patrick then stripped Seliger of key committee chairmanships and membership on other key committees.

Seliger’s GOP credentials really aren’t at issue. He stands for public education, local control, private property ownership, low taxes, business enhancement.

He just isn’t a GOP ideologue. The way I see it — and once again, Seliger is likely to disagree with me — he would fit just fine as a Democrat in the mold of, say, Bill Hobby or Bob Bullock or perhaps even Jack Hightower.

Problem is, though, he wouldn’t win re-election running as a Democrat in the Texas Panhandle. To be a Democrat is to be considered the virtual spawn of Satan in the cradle of Texas arch-conservatism.

 

If Empower Texans favors it, Sen. Seliger opposes it!

I am going to stand with my friend, Texas state Sen. Kel Seliger, the Amarillo Republican who has become a top-tier target of a far-right political action group known as Empower Texans.

Empower Texans is crowing about the passage in the Texas Senate of a property tax overhaul that garnered the support of every legislative Republican except one: Seliger, who, according to Empower Texans, sided with Texas Democratic legislators in opposing the bill.

I’ll save my comment on the legislation, Senate Bill 2, for a later blog post.

Today, though, I want to note briefly that Empower Texans sought to oust Seliger from his Senate District 31 seat in 2018, but failed when Seliger got through the GOP primary against two ultra-conservatives and was effectively re-elected without a runoff in his heavily Republican Senate district.

Seliger has made no effort to disguise his disgust with Michael Quinn Sullivan, the founding guru of Empower Texans, who believes that all Texas officeholders must adhere to his far-right agenda.

For example, Empower Texans favor vouchers for parents who want to pull their kids out of public education; Seliger, long a champion of public ed, opposes it.

With that, Empower Texans has sided with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — who also opposes much of what Seliger favors — in pushing for this property tax overhaul.

It boils down to a simple notion. If Empower Texans favors an initiative, it will do so without the support of Sen. Seliger, a man who has represented his sprawling West Texas district with distinction since 2004.

Sen. Seliger is unafraid to tout his own conservative credentials. The only “sin” he commits is that he isn’t conservative enough to suit Michael Quinn Sullivan and his cabal of right-wing ideologues.

Off to the races with public radio station KETR-FM

Well, we have a launch of a new project involving, um . . .  me.

KETR-FM has posted my first essay for its website. You can read it here.

I chose to comment on the Texas teacher pay increase that’s now under consideration in the Texas Legislature. The Senate is poised to approve a $5,000 annual raise for public school teachers; senators will send it to the House. If the House approves it, the issue goes to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk for his expected signature.

I am thrilled to be part of this new endeavor. My association now is with Texas A&M University/Commerce and its radio station, which is affiliated with National Public Radio.

It’s a whole new gig for me. I want to give thanks to KETR news director Mark Haslett for giving me a chance to offer some perspective through the radio station.

I feel as though I’ve been given a fresh chance to pursue an aspect of a craft that gave me many years of enjoyment.

Sen. Paxton exhibits a form of tone deafness

Texas state Sen. Angela Paxton — who was just elected in 2018 — is new in her job as a legislator. The McKinney Republican, though, should have thought better than to propose a bill for consideration that involves her husband, the state attorney general.

Why is that? Attorney General Ken Paxton is awaiting trial on a securities fraud allegation. Sen. Paxton, though, has proposed Senate Bill 860, which broadens the AG’s regulatory power over those who market financial services. You see, AG Paxton is accused of failing to report his own involvement as a securities adviser to potential clients.

Therefore, I intend to accuse Sen. Paxton of being tone deaf.

She is one of 19 Republicans serving in the Texas Senate. I would doubt seriously any of the dozen Democrats who serve with her would buy into what she wants to do, so we’ll look briefly at her GOP colleagues.

It seems odd that the spouse of a statewide elected official who is set to stand trial for securities fraud would propose legislation that affects the official who’s about to become a defendant in a court trial.

They talk about whether legislation passes the “smell test.” This one doesn’t, at least not my olfactory glands.

Couldn’t the rookie Texas senator find a GOP colleague among the 18 of them who serve with her to carry this legislation forward?

AG might get new power

Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t necessarily endorse SB 860. It expands the power of the attorney general and seems to remove a level of transparency that should be required when it involves securities and financial regulation.

It’s just that Sen. Paxton carrying a bill that has a direct impact her husband, who’s facing potential prison time if he’s convicted of securities fraud, is a stinker.

Ethics watchdogs seem to believe it stinks, too. I’m on their side.

Still steamed over Sen. Seliger getting stiffed

I should be moving on, looking forward . . . but I cannot stop gnashing my teeth over the way Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick treated a man I respect and for whom I also have a fair amount of personal affection.

I refer to state Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo, who belongs to the same Republican Party as Patrick, except they’re both Republicans in name only.

Patrick, who presides over the Texas Senate, decided to remove Seliger from a key committee chairmanship, Higher Education. He also took him off the Education Committee, and put him in charge of the newly formed Senate Agriculture Committee. Then he yanked him out of the Ag Committee chairmanship after Seliger made an impolite remark about a key Patrick aide.

Why did Patrick seek to punish West Texas — which Seliger has represented since 2004? I keep rolling around some theories. I’ve come up with one that I think makes sense.

Seliger has too many Senate friends who happen to be Democrats. Patrick doesn’t enjoy that kind of bipartisan camaraderie.

I remember not long after Seliger was first elected to the Senate in 2004 when he began talking about the friendships he had forged with Democrats. He would mention Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, a South Texas Democrat, as a colleague with whom he would work on legislation.

A Dallas Morning News article published a few weeks ago noted that Democratic senators think highly of Seliger. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, is considered one of Seliger’s best friends in the Senate. Another Democratic senator, Royce West of Dallas, also spoke highly of Seliger in the Dallas Morning News feature.

Does the lieutenant governor — a fiery TEA Party conservative — get that kind of love from across the aisle? I have the strong feeling he does not.

I don’t know if Lt. Gov. Patrick is prone to petty jealousy. However, I cannot rule it out, as I don’t know the man; I only know of him and know of the highly partisan legislation he likes to push through the Senate.

Sen. Seliger isn’t wired that way. He calls himself a proud conservative. He pushes for local control and doesn’t like the state meddling in matters that are best decided by local governing bodies.

Seliger also is a champion of public education; Patrick favors vouchers funded by tax money to send students to private schools.

Sen. Seliger also stood as a bulwark in favor of the Texas Tech University school of veterinary medicine planned for Amarillo. I am not at all sure what Patrick feels about that, but his removal of Seliger from the Higher Ed Committee chair has the potential of putting the vet school in some jeopardy.

I hope for the best for West Texas. I also hope Seliger rises to the occasion and is able to have his voice heard despite being stripped of political power.

Indeed, Sen. Seliger might need to reach across the aisle now more than ever.