The name Michael Quinn Sullivan keeps popping up in Texas media reports.
He seems to be some sort of kingmaker/queenmaker. He backs ultraconservative Texas politicians, talks them into running for office, raises lots of money for them and then sits back and watches them do his bidding … whatever it may be.
I’ve never met the young man. I’ve heard plenty about him from some local political hands here in the Texas Panhandle. Most of the folks with whom I have contact don’t think much of him, but he certainly has gained power.
Sullivan runs Empower Texas. He’s a former newspaper reporter who became a press aide to former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul. He’s dabbled in politics at many levels over the years.
A recent brief blog post by Texas Monthly guru Paul Burka took note of Texas House Speaker Joe Straus’s apparent rise as a national political figure. He’s going to head some national legislative council, which Burka sees as the “nail in Sullivan’s coffin.”
Sullivan doesn’t like Straus, who I guess he figures is too darn moderate to suit his taste.
The closest I came to understanding Sullivan was watching the 2014 Texas Republican primary battle for the state Senate seat now held by Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo. I know that Seliger doesn’t like Sullivan’s brand of archconservative Republican politics. I’m guessing Sullivan doesn’t care for Seliger, either.
That explains why he recruited former Midland Mayor Mike Canon to challenge Seliger in last year’s GOP primary. This perhaps was one of the more astonishing matchups I’ve seen in all my years covering Texas politics — from the Gulf Coast to the Caprock.
Canon’s a nice enough fellow. But when the questions came to him during a candidate forum in which I was one of the media questioners, I was flabbergasted at the shallow sound-bite quality of his answers. Seliger, on the other hand, offered details and nuance to his answers and anyone with a smidgen of a brain could see which of these men was the better candidate for the Texas Senate.
Canon, though, fit Michael Quinn Sullivan’s profile of political perfection.
The most frightening part of this campaign? Canon damn near won! Seliger squeaked out a primary victory and then was re-elected unopposed in the general election.
The Texas political landscape is sprinkled generously with officeholders who fit the Sullivan-TEA party mold. This guy wants more.
Sullivan is one scary dude.