Tag Archives: Dan Patrick

Border security? Yes, but …

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick laid out a mainstream agenda for the Legislature to consider when it convenes in January, and I want to endorse the tone of the items Patrick presented.

Border security — along with property tax relief and strengthening the state’s electrical grid — is a solid agenda item for the state to tackle.

I want to offer an important caveat in backing Patrick’s border security push. I do not want him to demagogue the issue — as he has done already — by declaring that President Biden favors an “open border.” Joe Biden does not favor an open border and his policies since taking office illustrate the point.

The feds continue to detain immigrants every day. They send some of them back, they send others to holding areas for processing. Our southern border — and northern border, for that matter — is not an open border.

Does the state have a role to play? Of course it does! Gov. Greg Abbott has been sending Department of Public Safety troopers to the Valley to lend aid and support to Border Patrol officers and local police. The state needs to buttress its high-tech surveillance as well to catch undocumented migrants.

Let us not concentrate on building walls along our border, which given the presence of the Rio Grande River along our state’s entire southern border, presents the state with a nearly impossible goal of keeping all migrants from entering the United States.

I want to encourage the newly re-elected lieutenant governor to take the high road when discussing border security.

Demagoguery only makes your foes angry.


Lt. Gov. proposes mainstream agenda … who knew?

Hardly ever do I have a good word to say about Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, but today I am going to veer into virtually unknown territory.

I want to offer a word of cautious praise for the agenda he is proposing for the Texas Senate as it prepares for the start of the next Legislature which opens for business in early January.

Patrick is pitching several key issues as his top priority items.

They are: fixing the electrical grid; reducing property taxes; and shoring up our border security.

None of that sounds particularly alarming to me. Nor should it to anyone else. There might be a socially conservative issue or two hidden in Patrick’s sleeve. You might recall how he sought to impose the “bathroom bill” on Texans in the 2017 Legislature. That was the bill that sought to require transgender Texans to use the public bathroom that coincided with their “gender at birth.” That attempt at homophobic legislation died in the House, thanks to the will of then-Speaker Joe Straus, another Republican legislator.

I don’t want Patrick to try more of that kind of funny business the 2023 legislative session.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick lays out 2023 legislative priorities | The Texas Tribune

The electrical grid needs repair, even though Gov. Greg Abbott and Patrick said it had been fixed after the disaster that came to the state in February 2021, when hundreds of Texans froze to death.

As for property tax relief, I am unsure what kind of authority the state has over a matter that is decided by county commissioners’ courts, school boards, city councils and assorted other local governing bodies. However, as a taxpaying Texas resident of long standing, I welcome the effort.

Patrick cruised to re-election this year and is likely filled with plenty of political capital as he prepares the Senate — over which he presides — for the work that lies ahead.

I wish him — and the Senate — well as they get busy. I just want to offer a word of caution to the occasionally fiery and abrasive lieutenant governor: Keep your eye on the ball and let’s not try to legislate our moral behavior.


California isn’t an epithet

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has picked up on the Republican mantra to suggest that Texas shouldn’t become “like California.”

His campaign ads suggest that Texas Democrat want to transform the Lone Star State into a version of California. That’s a bad thing, he suggests.

But … is it?

My bride and I have traveled through much of the southern portion of the Golden State and have gotten a bit of an up-close look at why the state boasts a world-class economy.

Now, last I heard California’s gross domestic product output would rank it No. 6 or 7 among the world economies if the state were an independent country. Texas’s worldwide ranking, as I understand it, would be No. 9 or 10; still not bad, but not in league with California.

As I looked around the Bakersfield area – which the locals call the “Armpit of California” – I am struck by the abundance of petrochemical plants, of cattle trucks tooling along the highways, of massive feedlots where cattle producers fatten up their livestock for market. Does that remind anyone of anywhere with which they might be familiar? Sure. It reminds me of the Texas Panhandle, where we lived for 23 years before relocating to Collin County in early 2019.

Oh, and I also see my share of pro-Republican and anti-Democratic bumper stickers, TV campaign ads and assorted signage along the highways.

To be sure, I am acutely aware that California ain’t nirvana. I hear tales of horrific regulatory hurdles that homeowners and business owners must endure. I also know that the state suffered through a net population loss since the most recent census as folks are leaving the state.

Before you pile on and suggest we should pack our bags and move here … don’t even think about it. We aren’t moving. We have forged a great life during our 38 years as adopted Texans.

I just want to suggest that emulating the nation’s most populous and most prosperous state isn’t the epithet that some Texas politicians suggest.


More Rs cross over?

It’s been a good while since the last time I can recall so many politicians making headlines by endorsing candidates from “the other party.”

It’s happening on the eve of the 2022 Texas midterm election.

Sarah Stogner, who lost the Texas Railroad Commission Republican Party primary runoff to incumbent Wayne Christian, has announced her intention to vote for Democrat Luke Warford. She’s not alone.

Former GOP Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff is going to cast his ballot for Democratic challenger Mike Collier. The man who was known in the Texas Senate as Obie Won Kenobi ain’t gonna support incumbent Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Neither is Amarillo GOP state Sen. Kel Seliger or Tarrant County GOP Judge Glen Whitley, both of whom have thrown their support behind Collier.

It all seems to speak to the deep divisions within the Republican Party. I know Seliger quite well, and I know of Ratliff, given that I was paid to follow legislative activities during my time as a full-time journalist. They both are “mainstream Republicans,” and neither of them is wedded to the fiery MAGA rhetoric that folks like Patrick use to blister their opposition.

Sarah Stogner endorses Democrat Luke Warford for railroad commissioner | The Texas Tribune

I am acutely aware that a handful of examples does not constitute a groundswell. It might, though, be a harbinger of what could be boiling under the political surface as we get nearer to midterm Election Day.


Will this strategic appeal to women work?

A political action committee has launched an intriguing midterm election campaign in Texas that appears plainly aimed at turning women out to vote in this year’s campaign.

They call themselves “Coulda Been Worse, LLC.” The PAC has paid for a series of TV ads that tell voters that “three men” are responsible for virtually banning abortion in Texas, despite polling that shows a significant majority of Texans favor allowing women the right to choose.

Coulda Been Worse singles out Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. “Three men,” the ad repeats, have decided that Texas women must not be allowed to determine whether to end a pregnancy.

The ad concludes with Abbott uttering “it coulda been worse” while he was briefing the public about the Uvalde school massacre, which killed 19 fourth graders and two heroic teachers in Robb Elementary School.

Coulda Been Worse LLC also has broadcast an ad telling voters how Abbott made a choice in the wake of the Uvalde slaughter to attend a fundraiser rather than visit Uvalde to perform his duties as “the father of Texas.”

I am not going to predict that the campaign against Abbott, Patrick and Paxton will prove decisive. But, man, the PAC has plenty of material with which it is working. It has the backdrop of that Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, a ruling that has outraged millions of women everywhere … including Texas!

Paxton is seeking a third term — despite being under felony indictment for the past seven years — against an ACLU lawyer, Rochelle Garza; polls show the contest a virtual dead heat. Patrick is facing Mike Collier in a lieutenant governor rematch from 2018.

Of course, Abbott is facing former Congressman Beto O’Rourke, currently the darling of the Texas Democratic Party; polls in that race are all over the place, with some of them showing a tightening contest while others suggest Abbott is pulling away.

If there is a hot button to push, my hope is that Coulda Been Worse can find it and push it incessantly until it produces what I deem to be the desired outcome: the defeat of Abbott, Patrick and Paxton.


Way to go, Sen. Seliger!

I am going to say something good about a friend of mine who happens to be serving his final term as a Texas state senator.

Kel Seliger, an Amarillo Republican, has just endorsed a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, sticking his finger in the eye of the incumbent Republican who — as has been reported many times — has earned Seliger’s scorn.

This news gives me hope that there might be more Republicans ready to toss aside the Texas Senate’s presiding officer in favor of an individual who can do a better job of working across the aisle than Patrick has been able to do.

Texas Lieutenant Governor’s race: Republicans Kel Seliger and Glen Whitley endorse Democrat Mike Collier for November’s election – ABC13 Houston

The Democratic candidate is Mike Collier, who ran against Patrick four years ago. This past weekend, Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley, who also is not seeking re-election this year, declared he is going to support Collier over Patrick.

Hey, I don’t begrudge either of these fellows for waiting until they became lame ducks before tossing Patrick under the proverbial bus.

Seliger detests Patrick. The feeling is mutual. Seliger also detests the founders of Empower Texans, the right-wing political action committee that backs Patrick. Seliger detests Seliger because the Amarillo lawmaker hasn’t been sufficiently loyal to Patrick’s archconservative legislative agenda.

Seliger also had the bad form of uttering a snarky comment about a key Patrick aide. Patrick got his revenge by stripping Seliger of his committee chairmanships and relegating his committee assignments to back-row panels about which few of us know.

I am going to hope that Sen. Seliger — a fellow I have known since the moment I set foot on the Caprock in early 1995 — can find the time to campaign for Collier and speak from the gut about the nastiness that Dan Patrick embodies.


GOP leader backs a Democrat for lt. gov.?

That’s how you make news: You go on a TV news show that is broadcast statewide and then declare that despite your loyalty to those who belong to your political party, you endorse the candidate for the state’s most powerful public office who represents the other major party.

Republican Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley, who’s leaving office at the end of the year, said he is going to support Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Mike Collier, who is running against GOP incumbent Dan Patrick.

The first reason that Whitley cited in turning his back on Patrick is Patrick’s association with Empower Texans, an outfit that has drawn plenty of barbs from this blog. Empower Texans is an ultra-right-wing political action committee dedicated to the task of challenging Republican officeholders who do not adhere to the PAC’s right-wing agenda.

I watched Empower Texans take aim at the likes of two friends of mine, state Sen. Kel Seilger and state Rep. Four Price, both of whom are Amarillo Republicans. Both are solid legislators. Seliger, though, butted heads constantly with Patrick.

I am glad Judge Whitley has decided to make news in this manner. He told WFAA-TV this morning: “The one person who I’ll support statewide that will get me a little in trouble: Mike Collier for lieutenant governor.”

I suppose I should weigh in with a thought on whether I believe Collier — who ran against Patrick four years ago — can break through the GOP lock on statewide office this time. I doubt it. Then again, I am not touring the state talking to folks about issues important to many Texans. Abortion comes to mind. The state has made performing an abortion a criminal act and has put the lives and emotional well-being of women in dire peril as a result.

Patrick, as the presiding officer of the Texas Senate, has been front and center on this heavy-handed policy discussion. I am going out on a limb by suggesting that Judge Whitley isn’t willing to side with Dan Patrick on that matter. Thus, he backs Mike Collier.

Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley endorses Mike Collier | The Texas Tribune

If only this endorsement can open the door for other reasonable Republicans to enter.


Will miss Sen. Seliger

Kel Seliger called me today, saying he had “no reason at all” other than just to catch up.

The Republican Texas state senator and I had a nice chat. I won’t reveal the content of our conversation, but I do want to offer a comment, which I more or less shared with Seliger this morning.

It is that I will miss his service in the Texas Senate, where he has served with distinction and honor for the past 18 years. He is bowing out of political life and returning to what many of us would consider to be a more “normal” lifestyle. That is, he will do what his wife asks of him and will spend a lot more time with his sons, their wives and his new granddaughter.

Seliger’s Senate District 31 seat stretches a long way through West Texas, from the Panhandle’s border with Oklahoma to the Permian Basin more than 250 miles away. Kevin Sparks will be elected to the seat in November. Sparks lives in Midland, representing the oil and natural gas industries.

One of the many things I admired about Seliger was his fluency in Permian Basin-speak, which equaled his fluency in Panhandle-speak. Seliger knows the Panhandle — from grange halls to feedlots. He also became well-versed in fossil fuel issues down yonder in Midland and Odessa.

Sparks will face a challenge in equaling Seliger’s knowledge of the vast district. From what I can gather, though, Sparks is a right-wing toadie who is going to do every single thing that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick wants him to do; Seliger resisted that pressure. It got him in trouble with Patrick, which leads me to another reason I grew to admire Seliger’s service to the state. He wouldn’t be pushed around by a vengeful pol who doesn’t know the first thing about issues affecting West Texans.

Seliger popped off about one of Patrick’s key aides and Patrick responded by stripping Seliger, a former Amarillo mayor, of chairmanships and key committee assignments.

Seliger’s political career is winding down. I will hope for the best for my former neighbors and my many friends in the Panhandle that the new guy will step up and represent their interests with as much vigor as he will represent the Permian Basin.

At this moment, I am doubtful.

Still, it was good to catch up with my friend.


Empower Texans tightens its grip

A right-wing political action group has lusted after legislative districts in Texas since the beginning of time, or so it seems. Empower Texans has tried to oust Texas Republicans from their seats by offering GOP primary opponents more to its liking.

It’s had a mixed record in that regard. However, the group led by a fellow named Michael Quinn Sullivan has scored some victories that for my money should cause concern across the great state.

I want to look specifically at a West Texas Senate district that will have a newbie representing it for the first time since 2004. Kel Seliger, a former Amarillo mayor, got elected to that seat after Teel Bivins vacated it to become the U.S. ambassador to Sweden. He has done well representing the entire district. His occasional beefs with conservatives in the Texas Senate pissed off Sullivan, who sought to “primary” Seliger over several election cycles. He had no luck in getting Seliger defeated.

Seliger, for his part, spoke badly of Sullivan and Empower Texans.

The veteran politician is leaving office at the end of the year. Kevin Sparks is the GOP nominee to succeed him. He will win the election this fall; I think he’s unopposed.

Sparks is another Empower Texans stalking horse. He will make very nice with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the Senate’s presiding officer and an individual with whom Seliger had plenty of beefs over the years. Patrick got so angry with Seliger over comments Kel made about a key Patrick aide that he stripped Seliger of his committee chairmanships and sent him to the back bench.

My trick knee is telling me that Sparks will cozy up to Patrick and do whatever the hell Patrick wants him to do. That will suit Empower Texans just fine, because Sparks is its guy in Austin.

I should add that Sparks hails from Midland, which is where Empower Texans is based. Get it? Sparks is an Empower Texans homey.

Thus, the right-wingers have tightened their grip on the Texas Senate. So very sad.


Patrick goes to war … against higher ed

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, no shrinking violet to be sure, has decided the latest “enemy” of the public are the educators who lecture our students attending public universities.

Patrick wants to restructure the tenure status granted to professors, making tenure subject to annual review rather than every six years. He wants public college and universities to stop teaching “nutty” notions. He said, according to the Texas Tribune: “I will not stand by and let looney Marxist UT professors poison the minds of young students with Critical Race Theory,” Patrick wrote on Twitter. “We banned it in publicly funded K-12 and we will ban it in publicly funded higher ed … “

Let’s hold on a minute, shall we?


I have been critical of universities that ban conservatives from speaking at, say, convocations or commencement ceremonies. Our institutions of higher learning are supposed to be open to all ideas, to all principles, all perspectives, all world views. Why not, then, let students decide which of them they embrace? Why not expose these young people — and, frankly, some students who aren’t so young — to all ideas?

Patrick favors only those ideas that comport with his own rigid conservative view of the world.

He targets “critical race theory” because, according to Patrick, it promotes a hatred of the country. Why? Because professors would dare to tell students about the nation’s original sin, the enslavement of African Americans. Uh, Dan? It happened, man! Telling our students of that sad chapter in our history is no “looney Marxist” theory.

As for the frontal assault on tenure, Patrick needs to stop politicizing a policy that grants academic freedom in a place where it should be honored, not vilified for political gain.