Tag Archives: Kel Seliger

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.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

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.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Panhandle to get new Senate face

Get ready, my old friends in the Texas Panhandle. You are about to get a new brand of legislative representation in the Texas Senate. It will come in the form of a state senator who represents your interests but who lives way down yonder in Midland, more than 200 miles away.

Kevin Sparks will be the new state senator from District 31. He won the Republican Party primary election this past week.

I don’t much at all about Sparks, other than I believe he was recruited by Empower Texans — a far right political action organization out of Midland — to run for the seat vacated by longtime Republican Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo. Empower Texans is a toxic organization and I detest what it stands for and what it has done to try to undermine the political leadership in the Panhandle, where my wife and I lived for 23 years before moving away in 2019.

They have their guy now slated to take his seat in District 31.

My hope is that Sparks does as much to represent the entire district, which runs from the Permian Basin all the way to the Panhandle’s border with Oklahoma. Seliger was as fluent in Permian Basin-speak as he was in Panhandle-speak when he served in the Senate. So was his Republican predecessor, the late Teel Bivins, also of Amarillo, who served the region from 1989 until 2004, when he left to become U.S. ambassador to Sweden. The same can be said of Bivins’s predecessor, Amarillo Democrat Bill Sarpalius.

The Panhandle has essentially owned that Senate seat since the proverbial Flood. Thanks to the GOP’s efforts to reconfigure the state’s legislative boundaries, the district lost several Panhandle counties and added some more down south, thus shoring up the strength of whoever wanted to run for the seat from the Permian Basin region.

There was a time when we could call our state senator or run into him at a local restaurant. I lost count of the times I would be sharing a meal with Kel Seliger in Amarillo and his attention was diverted to whomever walked by and wanted to chat. I doubt that will be the case with Sen. Sparks dining anywhere in Amarillo or Canyon.

That makes it imperative that he elevate his presence in the “other end” of the sprawling Senate district, which now happens to be the Panhandle, which until January 2023 had one of its own representing its interests in the Texas Senate. That task now will fall to an outsider.

Don’t let ’em down up north, Sen.-to-be Sparks.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

You tell ’em, Kel

Kel Seliger’s status as a lame-duck Texas state senator appears to have given the veteran Republican legislator some gumption as he has delivered a harsh reality to the state’s efforts at redrawing its legislative districts.

Seliger, who hails from Amarillo, said in a court deposition that the GOP-controlled Legislature broke the law in redrawing the boundaries in Senate District 10. “Having participated in the 2011 and 2013 Senate Select Redistricting Committee proceedings and having read the prior federal court decision regarding SD10, it was obvious to me that the renewed effort to dismantle SD 10 violated the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution,” Seliger said in his remarks to the court.

According to the Texas Tribune: Under the map passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature, some Black and Hispanic populations previously in District 10 were split into two other districts with majority-white electorates. The Black and Hispanic voters who remain in the newly drawn District 10, in urban areas of south Fort Worth, were lumped in with several rural, mostly white counties to the south and west that drive up the district’s population of white eligible voters while diminishing the number of voters of color.

GOP Sen. Kel Seliger says Texas violated federal voting rights law | The Texas Tribune

Well … isn’t that what many critics of the Legislature have alleged against Republicans who control the body?

Now we have one of the Legislature’s top GOP senators saying that he agrees with the critics. Is that what I am reading? I believe that’s the case.

To which I say only that it would have been good to hear such candor coming when Sen. Seliger was still in the thick of the fight. As it stands now, he is on the sidelines and is heading for the exit at the end of the year.

I say this as a friend of the senator. I consider him to have been an effective representative for the Texas Panhandle, where I lived for more than two decades. Seliger and I go back a while and I have long admired him for his independent streak and his pluck while serving in the Senate.

I mean, any guy who can piss off fellow Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, as Seliger has done, is OK in my book.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Battle set for Texas Senate District 31

A conversation I had this week with a friend and former colleague informed me of a battle for political power that is developing in the Texas Panhandle.

It involves Texas Senate District 31, which has been occupied since 2004 by Kel Seliger of Amarillo; Seliger is not seeking re-election this year, leaving the seat vacant for the next person to emerge from an expected tough battle.

I am biased, to be sure, but I hope the seat remains in the hands of a Texas Panhandle politician. Seliger served as Amarillo mayor before moving to the Senate; his predecessor, Teel Bivins also hailed from Amarillo; as did the fellow who preceded Bivins, Bill Sarpalius.

Kevin Sparks of Midland has declared his candidacy for the seat. I am looking for good things, though, to come from Tim Reid, a retired FBI agent who returned to Amarillo after retiring from the federal government.

Reid is no stranger to local political office. He served on the Canyon school district board before being transferred by the FBI to a new station back east.

Reid is appealing for a major reason: He is not aligned with Empower Texans, the far-right conservative political action committee that has targeted Seliger for years. It has recruited candidates to run against Seliger, who in turn has spoken ill of the individuals who run the PAC. Empower Texans has endorsed Sparks to succeed Seliger. Reid is running as the anti-Empower Texans candidate. He would have my vote … if I lived in Amarillo.

I am casually acquainted with Reid. He served on the Canyon school board for a time after I arrived in the Panhandle in early 1995 to run the opinion pages of the Amarillo Globe-News. Still, since he is running as a traditional Republican in a district populated more and more by the wacko wing of the GOP, I want to offer him a good word as he seeks to hold the seat for the Panhandle.

The Panhandle already has a nut job representing it in Congress in the person of Ronny Jackson. It doesn’t need another far-right fruitcake representing it in the Texas Senate.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Governor’s race presents conundrum

The upcoming Republican Party primary race for Texas governor presents a serious conundrum for GOP voters.

They will get to choose from among three top-tier candidates, two of whom are nut jobs.

We have the governor, Greg Abbott; challenging him are former Texas GOP chairman Allen West and former state senator Don Huffines. I won’t vote in the GOP primary this March, but I do have a thought or two I want to share.

Abbott is being challenged on the right by West and Huffines. Those two clowns don’t believe Abbott is conservative enough. West is the former one-term Florida congressman who moved to Texas because his political career in Florida was shot; Huffines is another far right-winger who says we need to ban all immigration into Texas.

Then we have Abbott, the guy who is fighting with the Biden administration over mask mandates.

I believe Abbott will survive this primary challenge, chiefly because West and Huffines are going to carve up the nut-job vote, paving the way for Abbott to skate to the party nomination.

It reminds me of the Texas Senate District 31 race in 2018 that enabled Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo to win his party’s nomination in a three-man race. His foes that year were former Midland mayor Mike Canon and Amarillo businessman Victor Leal. Both men sought to outflank Seliger on the far right. Seliger ran as a true-blue,  mainstream Texas conservative and won the primary fight with 50.4 percent of the vote; no runoff was needed.

Canon and Leal split the goofball vote in that year’s Senate GOP primary.

I see the same thing happening this year in the GOP primary for governor.

Texas politics is really weird, indeed.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

So long, and thanks, Sen. Seliger

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.

Texas state Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo won’t seek reelection | The Texas Tribune

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.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Sen. Seliger takes aim at veto power

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Kel Seliger already has antagonized Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Now he has drawn a bead (so to speak) on Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. The Amarillo Republican state senator has filed a bill that seeks to overrule the governor’s line-item veto power.

According to Amarillo Matters, a political action committee based in the Texas Panhandle: Senator Kel Seliger filed a bill to remove Governor Greg Abbott’s line-item veto power. The move comes after Abbott used his Executive Power to veto Article X of the State’s budget, which includes funding for House and Senate lawmakers, their staffers, and those working in nonpartisan legislative agencies. In a tweet, Seliger said, “Out of frustration, the Governor vetoed all funding for the Legislative Branch because Democrats broke quorum. But, vetoing this funding doesn’t punish legislators who left. It punishes regular, hard-working folks who have nothing to do with voting for or against bills.”  

My hunch is that Seliger isn’t going to align with legislative Democrats in their dispute with the GOP over voting restrictions proposed in legislation. Democrats bolted the Legislature to deny the quorum required to enact legislation.

However, Seliger is correct in identifying Abbott’s motives and his hideous overreaction to what Texas legislative Democrats did. He isn’t punishing Democratic politicians. Abbott is taking his anger out on the hard-working staffers who have done nothing to incur the governor’s wrath.

Nut jobs winning the gun debate

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Well, I’ll be deep fried and dipped in corn meal.

The nut job cabal within the Texas Legislature appears to be winning the debate over whether to allow Texans to pack heat without requiring a state-issued permit to do so.

What in the world is happening to us? Do we really believe — as most Republicans in the Legislature believe — that more guns on the streets make us safer? Eek, man!

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who once expressed concern about such a notion, now appears set to push it through. He needs 18 state senators to get it to the floor for consideration and, presumably, enactment. Eighteen Republicans are serving in the Texas Senate. One of them, Kel Seliger of Amarillo, had balked at endorsing the permit-less carry bill. Not to worry, though, Democratic Sen. Eddie Lucio might be the 18th senator to sign on to the bill and send it to the floor.

So help me, this notion gives me the heebie-jeebies. I was not a fan of concealed carry legislation when it was enacted in the 1990s. I have grown to accept it as sufficient.

Constitutional carry bill advancing in Texas Senate, Dan Patrick says | The Texas Tribune

The Texas Tribune reports on potential changes to the bill that make it palatable to law enforcement, which so far has stood against its enactment:

Count me as one Texan who remains unconvinced this is a good idea.

New feud brewing in Texas Senate?

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Even though I am far removed from state and local politics these days by virtue of my retirement from full-time journalism, I do maintain a fairly high level of interest in the goings-on.

Such as what might be brewing in Austin between Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and a longtime nemesis, Republican state Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo.

I’ll stipulate up front that I have declared my pro-Seliger bias. I know the senator quite well and I consider him a friend. He and Patrick have butted noggins already in previous legislative sessions. Patrick has sought to punish Seliger for allegedly “insulting” a key aide of Patrick’s. My reading of Seliger’s response has been it’s rolled off his broad back.

Now, though, comes this nutty legislation that might get stalled in the Senate. It’s the one that would allow any Texan who lives to pack a firearm even without obtaining a state-issued permit under the state’s concealed-carry law. Seliger thinks the current system works just fine and hasn’t signed on to the bill already approved by the House of Representatives.

Patrick, meanwhile, says he’ll move the bill forward once it obtains the required 18-vote majority it requires under Senate rules; Seliger’s holdout leaves the bill one vote short before it can be taken up by the full Senate.

Seliger is leaving open the possibility that he could be persuaded to support the bill. I hope he stands firm. It’s not that I want Patrick to punish him some more. Indeed, there’s little more that Patrick can do to Seliger above what he’s done already, which was to strip him of committee chairmanships and reassign him from some of the higher profile Senate panels on which he served.

I dislike the proposed legislation. No … I hate it!

With that, I will implore my friend to stand firm. Be strong.