Tag Archives: Texas Tribune

Will he or won’t he run for POTUS?

I am on pins and needles waiting for Beto O’Rourke to tell us whether he is running for president of the United States in 2020.

Well, actually, I’m not. I am amazed, though, at the excitement that a potential Beto candidacy is ginning up among Democratic partisans as the field for the presidential election keeps growing.

O’Rourke seems like a fine young family man. He represented El Paso, Texas, in Congress for three terms. Then he ran for the Senate in 2018 and came within a couple of percentage points of defeating Sen. Ted Cruz, the sometimes-fiery Republican incumbent.

That a Democrat could come as close as O’Rourke did in 2018 to upsetting a GOP incumbent still has politicos’ attention. Thus, they are waiting Beto’s decision.

He says he’ll let us know by the end of the month whether he intends to seek the presidency, which is just a few days down the road.

The political world awaits.

I remain decidedly mixed about Beto’s possible candidacy. I wanted him to win his race against Cruz. I think he would be a fine U.S. senator.

And, maybe, one day he will make an equally fine president of the United States. Still, there’s just something a bit too green about Beto.

Do his policies bother me? No. I consider myself a center-left kind of fellow. Thus, I don’t see Beto as a flame-throwing progressive bad-ass. He’s not a socialist — closeted or otherwise.

However, he seems to be trading on the excitement he built with his Senate run, believing possibly that he can parlay that into a national campaign.

I just don’t know

That all said, I’ll repeat what I’ve stated already: If he were to win the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination and then face off in the fall of 2020 against Donald John Trump, he would have my support all the way to the finish line.

He just isn’t the perfect candidate to take on Donald Trump.

I’m still waiting for Mr. or Ms. Political Perfection — or a reasonable facsimile — to jump out of the tall grass.

Pass the scented spray in the Texas Senate; this one stinks

The Texas Senate needs to be fumigated. Already!

Republican state Sen. Angela Paxton, the wife of the Texas attorney general, who is awaiting trial on securities fraud, has just introduced legislation that would give her husband, Ken Paxton, the authority to decide who is violating, um, securities fraud.

This one not only doesn’t pass the smell test, it stinks up the entire Texas Senate. Pass the scented spray!

This measure disappoints me greatly. Sen. Paxton, from McKinney, is a freshman legislator. However, she ought to know better than to step with both feet into this legal pile of dookey.

Not a conflict of interest, but it’s close

Senate Bill 860 would broaden the power to the attorney general’s office. As the Texas Tribune reports: “In doing so, the bill would grant broad powers to the attorney general’s consumer protection division, allowing it to accept or reject entrepreneurial applicants who seek to hawk innovative produces outside of the state’s current standards and regulations.”

What about the AG? Ken Paxton was indicted in 2017 by a Collin County grand jury for securities fraud in connection with an allegation that he didn’t provide proper notification that he was acting as an investment adviser. He’s awaiting trial.

Good grief! My major concern about Sen. Angela Paxton service dealt with how she might vote on matters involving her husband’s salary as a state constitutional officer. I didn’t see this one coming.

I get that AG Paxton should be presumed innocent, but why in the world would Sen. Paxton want to step so directly into this legal mess involving her husband?

This one stinks to high heaven!

Texas AG won’t probe voter roll SNAFU . . . imagine that

Something suspicious occurred when the Texas secretary of state flagged the names of 95,000 Texans on the belief they might be non-citizens who voted illegally.

It turns out many of them — particularly in five of the state’s largest counties — were citizens after all. They all voted legally. The state erred dramatically.

How could that happen? Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has said his office won’t launch an investigation into what occurred. I wish the AG would rethink that option and look deeply into it.

The erroneous flagging has drawn plenty of barbs from Latino groups and others who believe the state might have been profiling voters simply because of their last names.

A large number of those flagged voters should not have been singled out.

There’s just something about this matter that doesn’t smell right to me. It has the stench of prejudice and a premature jumping to conclusions about those who comprise a certain minority group in Texas.

According to the Texas Tribune, county officials so far have discovered “at least 20,000” individuals targeted by the state were eligible to vote. Will there be more of them?

I am one Texan who wants to know how and why these individuals were flagged by the top state elections official.

By all means, change the Texas judicial election system!

Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht has just elevated himself greatly among those of us who detest the way the state elects its judges.

Chief Justice Hecht wants the Legislature to do away with partisan election of judges. He wants a total overhaul of the judicial election system. He has called on merit selection and retention elections to replace the ghastly status quo in which highly qualified judges are tossed aside on a strictly partisan basis.

Hecht has walked this path before. I suppose I just haven’t been paying careful enough attention until now.

To be clear, the chief justice was stung by the loss of key Republican judges in the 2018 midterm election. Appellate courts flipped from GOP to Democratic control, which I guess alarms the Republican chief justice.

Whatever the case, or his motives, I totally support his call for judicial election reform.

Hecht made his remarks in his State of the Judiciary speech. He said, “Make no mistake: A judicial selection system that continues to sow the political wind will reap the whirlwind.”

So it happened in 2018. And so it has gotten the attention once again of the state’s top civil appellate court’s chief justice.

I long have bemoaned the partisan election of judges in Texas. I have sought over the course of many years in Texas to get judges and judicial candidates to explain to me the “difference between Democratic and Republican justice.” Not a single one of them ever explained the difference in any fashion that made a lick of sense.

To be clear about another point as well, not all judges want the kind of reform that Hecht has proposed. I remember asking the late state Sen. (and later a Supreme Court justice) Oscar Mauzy of Dallas whether we should go to a form of merit selection for judges. He came unglued. Mauzy, a ferocious, partisan Democrat, said appointing judges was akin to a “communist” system of justice. He loved running as a Democrat and wasn’t about to support any change in the Texas judicial election system.

Texas Republicans long have prospered in these judicial contests. The Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeals — the state’s two highest appellate courts — comprise 18 GOP jurists. Thus, to hear a Republican chief justice call once again for this significant judicial reform is, well, the rarest of calls.

Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, for trying to pound some sense into the state’s political power structure.

Beto is about to run for POTUS?

I have to agree with Oprah Winfrey, who told Beto O’Rourke that he seems like a 2020 presidential candidate.

Winfrey interviewed O’Rourke as part of a series of discussions on her OWN Network. O’Rourke, the former West Texas congressman, told Winfrey he will decide by March whether to run for president next year.

Family is the major consideration for O’Rourke, a husband and father of three young children.

OK, let me stipulate once again: I don’t believe O’Rourke is ready to become commander in chief, the head of state and leader of the world’s most indispensable nation. Yes, he captured Democrats’ fancy with his near-win in the race for the U.S. Senate from Texas. I wanted him to defeat Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in the 2018 midterm election. He came within a couple of percentage points of doing so, which in GOP-heavy Texas is a big . . . deal.

Oprah weighs in on Beto

Winfrey is correct to assume O’Rourke will run. Why? Well, he wouldn’t be sitting for interviews such as the one he did with Oprah if he intended to stay on the sidelines. So, it looks for all the world as if the young former congressman from El Paso is going all-in for president in 2020.

Do not misunderstand me here. If by some astonishing set of circumstances that O’Rourke can parlay the excitement he generated in Texas into a national following and actually get nominated for president, then he has my support.

That’s especially true if the GOP nominee is Donald John Trump, who I believe with very fiber of my being should not have been elected president in the first place. He is unfit for the office at any level I can imagine.

Beto O’Rourke, although he is green and untested on the national stage, would be my strong preference.

First, though, he has to make that decision. I believe Beto has made it already.

Lieutenant governor plays a heavy hand badly

Those of us who know Texas state Sen. Kel Seliger need to take a look at a clean and crisp political analysis about the growing feud between the Amarillo lawmaker and fellow Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

The Texas Tribune’s Ross Ramsey has concluded that Patrick is likely misplaying his hand in punishing Seliger for an impolite remark the senator made regarding a top Patrick aide, Sherry Sylvester.

Read Ramsey’s analysis here.

By banishing Seliger the chairmanship of the Senate Higher Education Committee and taking him off the Education Committee, Patrick has muted a key Texas Panhandle voice on matters involving public education. Seliger has been a champion of both public and higher ed since he was first elected to the Senate in 2004. In fact, Seliger’s service on the Education panel continued the Panhandle presence, given that he succeeded the late Teel Bivins in the Senate District 31 seat.

Ramsey’s analysis takes note of how Patrick has demonstrated a habit of (a) punishing a senator from his own party and (b) pouring it on.

What might play out as the Senate gets down to legislative business over the course of the next 120-some days is whether Seliger emerges as a “swing vote” that could deny legislation from coming to a vote of the full Senate.

I don’t believe Seliger is a particularly vengeful individual. Then again, he’s been done wrong by the lieutenant governor and, by extension, so have his West Texas constituents been harmed by Patrick’s petulance. Seliger takes his public service seriously, even if he doesn’t always taken himself so seriously . . . which I consider to be a positive trait that I believe all politicians should exhibit.

Judging from the way Patrick has erupted over Seliger’s supposedly crude comment, the lieutenant governor is taking himself far too seriously to suit my taste. Then again, I don’t have to serve with this guy. Oh, no, I get to do something even better: I get to complain about his conduct as the Senate’s presiding officer, given that he works for me and the rest of the state’s 27 million residents.

Therefore, I believe he has messed up by attempting to manhandle one of the Senate’s wisest and most experienced individuals.

Where is the Texas Senate’s wise man?

I don’t know where he is at this very moment, but I cannot stop thinking about Bill Ratliff as I read about the tension building between two key players in the Texas Senate.

Ratliff served as lieutenant governor in the early 2000s. He was elevated to that post by his fellow state senators after Lt. Gov. Rick Perry moved into the governor’s office after the 2000 election of George W. Bush as president of the United States.

Ratliff, a Republican from Mount Pleasant in East Texas, was generally a revered political figure in the Texas Capitol. He enjoyed tremendous bipartisan support. Why is that? Because he didn’t govern with a heavy hand.

Ratliff must be grinding his teeth as he follows this stuff.

Oh, man. The mood in Austin is a whole lot different these days. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick not only has pi**** off his Democratic colleagues, he’s managing to antagonize his fellow Republicans. One of them is a fellow I’ve known quite well for more than two decades, Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo.

Patrick is telling the rest of the GOP Senate caucus the following messages: Do it my way . . . or else! The “or else” in Seliger’s case arrived when Patrick took away the chairmanship of the Higher Education Committee and removed Seliger from the Education and Finance committees. Patrick then threw Seliger a bone when he named him chair of the newly formed Agriculture Committee, a post that Seliger reportedly didn’t thrill him.

A Patrick aide said that if Seliger believed the Ag post was “beneath him” he could ask to be withdrawn and Patrick could appoint someone else. Seliger then told a Lubbock radio host — in so many words — that the aide could kiss his “rear end.”

Patrick then responded to that by yanking Seliger out of the Agriculture panel’s chairmanship post.

Imagine any of this occurring with Bill Ratliff as the Man of the Senate. I cannot wrap my head around that.

To be clear, I do not know Ratliff. I only know of him. Just as I don’t know Patrick, either, but I certainly know of this guy.

Patrick is playing hardball. He is using his considerable power to punish one of the Senate’s more senior members because the two of them don’t view the world through the same ideological prism.

Here is how the Texas Tribune sees this saga.

The Texas Senate used to have a tradition of bipartisanship. The lieutenant governor used to govern with an eye toward enlisting support from the minority party’s senators. To think that a lieutenant governor — whether Democrat or Republican — would punish a member of his own caucus has been a heretofore unthinkable occurrence.

I wish we could find another Bill Ratliff out there somewhere. They didn’t call him “Obi-Wan Kenobie,” the wise man from “Star Wars,” for nothing.

Patrick gives Seliger, West Texas the shaft

I don’t care how you slice it, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is playing a game of revenge politics with one of the Legislature’s brighter lights, state Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo.

Patrick handed out committee assignments for the 2019 Legislature and managed to yank Seliger out of his longtime chairmanship of the Senate Higher Education Committee and removed him from the Senate Education Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. He also took Seliger off the Higher Ed Committee altogether, meaning that the veteran Panhandle legislator will have no input on the crafting of legislation involving public education at any level in the state.

To be fair, Patrick did appoint Seliger as chair of the Agriculture Committee, although I don’t recall Seliger demonstrating much of an “ag background” in his long career as a businessman in Amarillo. Still, a key Patrick adviser, told the Texas Tribune that if Seliger is unhappy with his Agriculture Committee chairmanship he could let Patrick know and the lieutenant governor could appoint someone else.

Revenge politics in play?

So, what do you suppose that’s all about?

I have an idea. It has to do with Seliger’s longstanding displeasure with the way Patrick runs the Senate. He also declined to endorse Patrick’s re-election effort, as he was the lone Senate Republican to not sign a letter of endorsement on Patrick’s behalf.

Patrick then returned the “favor” by refusing to back Seliger’s bid for re-election this past year. What’s more, according to the Texas Tribune, Patrick’s top political consultant, Allen Blakemore of Houston, managed the campaign of Amarillo businessman Victor Leal, one of two Republicans who lost to Seliger in the 2018 GOP Senate primary this past spring.

I am one Texan who is saddened to see Seliger’s voice removed from the discussion of education policy in the Legislature.

Having said that, I also must declare that I harbor warm personal and professional feelings for Seliger, a man I got to know immediately after moving to the Texas Panhandle in early 1995. I know him to be one of the brightest minds in the Legislature. He has shown a healthy bipartisan streak during his 14 years as a senator, which I consider an essential component of good and smart governance.

If only the guy who runs the Senate, Patrick, could muster up the kind of well-rounded legislative skill that Sen. Seliger has demonstrated.

Lt. Gov. Patrick in line for a job with Trump? Oh, let’s hope so

What little I know about Ross Ramsey of the Texas Tribune — and it’s really not all that much — I am inclined to believe he doesn’t toss rumors out there just to make a spectacle of himself.

So, when he wrote this in an analysis published by the Tribune, I kind of sat up a little straighter in my chair:

“(Lt. Gov. Dan) Patrick’s visit to Washington sparked a rumor that he might be in line for a post in the Trump administration — a rumor that prompted speculation about how the legislative session would go with senators choosing his replacement from among their own ranks. That hasn’t happened since George W. Bush became president and then-Lt. Gov. Rick Perry succeeded him as governor. Senators made Bill Ratliff the lieutenant governor until the next election.”

Then Ramsey offered this: “Scratch all that.”

Read Ramsey’s analysis here.

Patrick met the president in McAllen earlier this week and offered to help him build The Wall along our border with Mexico. He said Texas could pony some of the $5.7 billion that Trump wants to spend.

So, what would that mean if Patrick gets whisked off to D.C. to serve in the Trump administration? That would allow senators to select a new lieutenant governor. I know one of those 31 senators pretty well: Republican Kel Seliger of Amarillo, who I believe would make an outstanding lieutenant governor.

He calls himself a “conservative,” but he sounds more, shall we say, moderate than some of the righties who populate the Texas Senate. That is fine with me. For instance, I cannot imagine a Lt. Gov. Seliger pushing a “Bathroom Bill” through the Senate to make some sort of statement to appease cultural conservatives within the Texas GOP Senate caucus.

I’ve known Seliger for nearly 25 years. He and I have developed a good relationship. I was editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News and he was Amarillo mayor when we first met in early 1995. He then left City Hall and was elected to the Senate in 2004 after the late Teel Bivins received an ambassadorial post from President Bush.

I have long supported Seliger’s work as a state senator.

Would he make a good lieutenant governor? Of course he would! I realize I am getting way ahead of myself. Lt. Gov. Patrick likely isn’t going anywhere.

Then again . . . my hope springs eternal.

Decency, reason prevail at Tarrant County GOP

Shahid Shafi still has his volunteer job, thanks to the reason and decency that prevailed at the Tarrant County Republican Party’s special meeting.

Shafi survived a vote tonight that sought to remove him from his post as county GOP vice chairman. Did he do anything wrong? Was there malfeasance? A hint of corruption? Did he steal money from the coffer? Is he guilty of any moral misbehavior?

Oh, no. He was targeted because of his Muslim faith by a group of malcontents, bigots, xenophobes and cretins who comprise a small, but vocal minority of the Tarrant County GOP.

Decency wins the day

The 133-49 vote to retain Dr. Shafi as Republican Party vice chair came after many local and state Republican leaders denounced the effort to have him removed. Among them were Gov. Greg Abbott and U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz.

One of the ringleaders of this idiotic effort was Dorrie O’Brien, a local precinct chairwoman who sought to make the case that Shafi, a trauma surgeon and Southlake City Council member, was unfit because of supposed support for Islamic terrorist organizations. She said it had nothing to do with his Islamic faith. What utter crap!

Gov. Abbott took pains to note that the Texas Constitution mirrors the U.S. Constitution by declaring that there should be “no religious test” for anyone seeking or holding public office.

The bigoted cabal that sought Dr. Shafi’s ouster should take heed. If they fail to grasp what both governing documents say, they have no basis for their own service.

They, not Dr. Shafi, should be shown the door.