Call me not surprised in the least at this bit of political bombshell news.
Texas state Sen. Kel Seliger, an Amarillo Republican, has announced he won’t run for another term from Senate District 31.
I want to get this disclaimer out of the way off the top. Seliger is a friend of mine. I have known him since the week I reported for work in January 1995 at the Amarillo Globe-News. Seliger was mayor of the city and he and I got to know each other well while he served in public office and I worked as editorial page editor of the newspaper.
Our relationship morphed into a friendship when he left the mayor’s office. Then it returned to its former self when he was elected to the state Senate in 2004.
Texas is losing a titan from its legislative leadership. The Texas Panhandle is losing a stellar representative of its interests in Austin. Seliger will serve until January 2023 when his current term expires.
I won’t pussyfoot around with what I believe to be Seliger’s motive in leaving public office. He has grown weary of being battered by the right-wing nut cases who occupy the GOP leadership. I refer particularly to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, with whom Seliger has clashed frequently since Patrick was first elected to lead the Senate in 2014.
Seliger has opposed some of Patrick’s key socially conservative notions. He once spoke ill of a key Patrick aide; the lieutenant governor punished Seliger by removing him key committee chairmanships.
Seliger has been the target of Empower Texans, a right-wing political action committee that pushes archconservative social issues, which Seliger — given his nature and his salt-of-the-Earth conservatism — has opposed.
Seliger’s statement about his pending retirement contained all the proper platitudes about pride in serving his West Texas district, about how he wants to spend more time with his family and his giving thanks to West Texans for entrusting him with their vote.
The Legislature, though, decided to “reward” Seliger by pulling key Panhandle counties out of District 31 and adding several more from the Permian Basin region, thus diluting Seliger’s base within the sprawling legislative district.
So, it’s no surprise to me that this good man has decided to call it a career.
The Texas Panhandle has been blessed with solid conservative representation in the Texas Senate even pre-dating Seliger’s tenure in that office. What happens now remains anyone’s guess. My hunch is that it won’t be good, necessarily, for the region that sent Kel Seliger to Austin to represent its interests.
This is a big loss for the region I once called home. I’m betting that Kel Seliger is likely to sleep well from this day forward now that he has made this big announcement.
Thanks for your service to the Panhandle and the state, Sen. Seliger.