Tag Archives: Michael Quinn Sullivan

Speaker Bonnen, you might have blown it royally!

I was willing to give Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen the benefit of the doubt when he sought the office after Joe Straus left the Legislature at the beginning of the year.

Bonnen, an Angleton Republican, was thought by many to be a politician who is able to work with pols from both sides of the aisle in Austin.

But now ā€¦ it turns out he might have double-crossed members of his own GOP caucus, if we are to believe ultra right-winger Michael Quinn Sullivan, the godfather of Empower Texans, the political action committee he founded. Sullivan reportedly has revealed that Bonnen agreed to offer Empower Texans the names of 10 GOP lawmakers the right wingers could target in the 2020 election.

Would Speaker Straus have done such a thing? Or Speaker Tom Craddick? Or Speaker Pete Laney? Or Speaker Gib Lewis?

I doubt it strongly! Yet we now have evidence, apparently, of collusion (there’s that word again) between Speaker Bonnen and a right-wing outfit that has sought to yank the Legislature even farther to the right than it already stands.

Betrayal anyone?

This is a disgraceful betrayal if it turns out to be true. There’s something credible-sounding about what has been revealed so far.

Sullivan has talked about a meeting he had with Bonnen in which the speaker made the offer to hand over the names of legislators that would show up on Empower Texans’ hit list. Bonnen has said publicly he wanted to work for the re-election of all GOP lawmakers. The Sullivan account contradicts Bonnen and many of Bonnen’s legislative colleagues are buying into what Sullivan is saying.

This looks for all the world like dirty pool. It looks also to me that Speaker Bonnen’s time with his hands on the House gavel might come to an end when the next Legislature convenes in January 2021.

This is particularly troubling for me on a personal level, given my own intense distrust of Empower Texans and of Michael Quinn Sullivan. Empower Texans has sought to unseat at least two Republican legislators with whom I have a high personal and professional regard. I refer to two men from Amarillo, state Sen. Kel Seliger and state Rep. Four Price.

They both got “primaried” in 2018, only to beat back those challenges with relative ease. Both men’s GOP primary opponents were recruited and funded by Empower Texans, which seeks to push an ultra-conservative legislative agenda throughout Texas.

So, for Speaker Dennis Bonnen to crawl into the political sack with these clowns — allegedly! — is distasteful on its face.

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.

Sullivan threw out the bait; I took it

Michael Quinn Sullivan runs an outfit called Empower Texans. He sent out a mailer to Texas Senate District 31 residents which contained a bit of red meat of which I took a bite.

It implied that state Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, opposes a Senate bill that would provide $4.6 billion in tax relief for Texans. Dumb me. I fell for it.

Seliger called this morning to remind me that he voted for Senate Bill 1, but simply declined to sign on as a sponsor of the bill.

The antipathy between Seliger and Sullivan is as strong as ever. Indeed, I happen to stand with Seliger in his distaste and distrust of Sullivan, who sees himself as a kingmaker, seeking to elect legislators and statewide officials who agree with his brand of ultraconservatism.

I also happen to agree with those who believe the state should hold off on tax cuts until it takes care of some essential needs, such as infrastructure improvement and restoring money to public education.

Lesson learned: Read everything that Michael Quinn Sullivan sends out — carefully.


State senator incurs power broker's wrath

State Sen. Kel Seliger is no fan of Michael Quinn Sullivan … and vice versa.

A piece of mail arrived at my home this week from an outfit called Empower Texans, a political action group headed by Sullivan, a would-be state political kingmaker. Its subject? Seliger absent on tax relief efforts.

It seems that Sullivan is on board with the tax cutting frenzy that many conservatives seem to prefer at the moment. Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have put forth an agenda of “reducing property and business taxes,” which Sullivan said has been “set as a priority for conservative lawmakers for the legislative session.”

Senate Bill 1 would provide $4.6 billion in tax cuts. Only two Republican senators oppose it. One of them is Seliger of Amarillo. My strong hunch is that the other GOP senator to oppose it is Kevin Eltife of Tyler.


This disagreement highlights one of the critical difficulties facing the Texas Republican Party. Does the party keep cutting taxes while the state has the money on hand to do things, such as fix roads and bridges? Or does the state do what Eltife and, presumably, Seliger want to do, which take is care of some vital needs before cutting taxes?

I happen to agree with the Eltife approach (as mentioned in the blog post attached to this item).

That’s not the case with the folks who are calling most of the shots in the Legislature. Eltife,Ā wrote the Texas Tribune’sĀ RossĀ Ramsey, “wants the meat and potatoes before dessert. Most of his colleagues, however, have their eyes on the pies.ā€

I should add that Sullivan found a candidate to run in 2014 against Seliger, former Midland Mayor Mike Canon. Sullivan backed Canon to the hilt, only to fall short when the votes were counted throughout the sprawling Senate District 31.

Are you having fun yet, Sen. Seliger?


Who is this guy M.Q. Sullivan, anyhow?

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 gainedĀ 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 ofĀ political perfection.

The most frightening partĀ 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 politicalĀ landscape is sprinkled generously with officeholders who fit theĀ Sullivan-TEA party mold. This guy wants more.

Sullivan is one scary dude.


Seliger may be in a bind

Texas state Sen. Kel Seliger just might find himself in a tough spot as the general election campaign gets going full blast.

He’s an Amarillo Republican who’s already beaten back a stout challenge from his right. Former Midland Mayor Mike Canon lost narrowly to Seliger in the GOP primary in March. One of Canon’s top back-room advisers is a guy named Michael Quinn Sullivan, an arch-conservative activist who is believed to have talked Canon into running against Seliger.

The senator has no love — or even a modicum of “like” — for Sullivan. He’s said so publicly.

So, who do you think is one of Sullivan’s top stable horses this year? State Sen. Dan Patrick, the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor, the guy who wants to preside over the Texas Senate where he and, oh yes, Seliger serve. Patrick faces a probable slugfest this fall running against Democratic nominee, another state senator, Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio.

Here’s the quandary.

Suppose Patrick ventures to the Texas Panhandle this summer and fall to look for votes. Who will appear with him on a stage, at a dinner dais, at a Labor Day picnic or a political rally at, say, Dick Bivins Stadium? Will it be the senator from Texas Senate District 31, who has a known disdain for one of Patrick’s main backers?

I tend to think not.

Whatever support Patrick gets from the Panhandle — and it will be substantial, given this region’s strongly Republican leanings — he’ll likely have to acquire it without Seliger’s help.

Unless, of course, Seliger changes his heart and mind and climbs aboard the Patrick bandwagon.

Don’t laugh. Politicians of both parties have been known over many years to have these “awakenings” when the spirit — and the thought of choice committee assignments — moves them.

Texas GOP spoils it

Just about the time I express faith that the Republican Party may be coming to its senses, along comes a veteran Texas political observer to remind me that the Texas GOP operates in a parallel universe.

Paul Burka’s most recent blog for Texas Monthly laments the “Triumph of the Know-Nothings” in this mid-term election season.


He points to the “Republican civil war” raging along many fronts. GOP candidates are trying to outflank each other on the right, as if the mainstream Texas Republican Party — such as it is — isn’t conservative enough.

I’ve already noted that the GOP runoff for railroad commissioner illustrates the nastiness within the party, with foes Ryan Sitton and Wayne Christian battling to see which one of them can be seen in more photo-op shots with U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. Political action groups have accused Christian of being a “greenie” as it regards energy policy — as if that’s somehow a negative.

Burka writes: “This is the worst election campaign season in my memory. Everything has been organized to elect the most radical candidates on the ballot, those who are the farthest to the right. The result will be the triumph of the know-nothings.”

With tea party candidates getting the boot in states like Kentucky, Georgia, Idaho and Oregon, I had thought that perhaps the GOP had realized the only way it could compete for the soul of the national electorate would be to nominate candidates with a modicum of sense. In Texas, according to Burka, the opposite appears to be playing out.

“Vast sums of dark money are pouring into the state to influence the election. Michael Quinn Sullivan and the tea parties are running the show.” Burka writes.

Now I’m getting scared.

Election provides a couple of stunners

Two big surprises highlighted my watching of the Republican primary elections Tuesday night.

One of them is quite good; the other is potentially troubling.

First, the good.

Nancy Tanner’s victory in the GOP primary for Potter County judge caught me off-guard, but it does demonstrate that competence and experience can win an argument over name identification and relative sizzle.

Tanner is going to take over the county judge’s duties at the first of the year. The GOP voters of the county showed that they appreciate her two decades serving as administrative assistant to Arthur Ware, the current judge who’s stepping down.

Ware had fired Tanner from her job in 2013 for reasons that haven’t been explained fully. Tanner had just made known her intention to run for Ware’s seat after he had announced his impending retirement from public life. Ware had been slowed considerably by a devastating stroke he suffered in 2010, leaving Tanner and other county officials to perform many of the duties attached to the county judge’s office.

It was her experience and intimate knowledge of the nuts and bolts of county government that made Tanner the most qualified of the five candidates running for the office.

Which brings me to the surprise. I was quite sure no one was going to win this primary outright. I figured it would be two of three top-tier candidates — Tanner, former Amarillo Mayor Debra McCartt and Bill Bandy — competing in a runoff.

Silly me. I underestimated the wisdom of the voters.


State Sen. Kel Seliger’s hair-raising win over former Midland Mayor Mike Canon provided the other surprise.

Seliger, R-Amarillo, by all rights should have won that race in a walk. He’s smart, articulate, knowledgeable, calm, reasonable, effective, collegial, detail-oriented, friendly … what am I missing? Whatever. He deserved to be re-elected to the Senate District 31 seat he’s filled since 2004.

Then came Canon, who began accusing Seliger of being a closet liberal, which is fightin’ words in this part of the political world. The word among some observers is that Canon was recruited by Michael Quinn Sullivan, a tea party political operative who over the years has developed a nasty relationship with Seliger.

Even given the Texas political climate, I didn’t believe Canon would come as close as he did to defeating Seliger.

There is a potential for concern here. Seliger’s re-election — with no Democrat on the ballot — should not signal a sharp turn to the right for the already-conservative lawmaker. Other elected public officials have reacted badly at times to these challenges from their left or the right by tacking too far in either direction.

My hope is that Seliger is comfortable enough in his own skin to stay the course and keep up the good work he’s already done — such as water planning and funding for public education — on behalf of his constituents.

All in all, where these two races are concerned, the election turned out just fine.