Tag Archives: Mike Canon

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 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.


Panhandle might fall victim to intra-party squabble

Having taken note of the political demise of a soundly conservative lawmaker from East Texas to an even more conservative challenger, the thought occurred to me: Is the Texas Panhandle susceptible to this kind of intra-party insurrection?

State Sen. Bob Deuell is about to leave office after being defeated in the GOP primary by newcomer Bob Hall. As the Dallas Morning News columnist noted, the “farthest right” defeated the “far right.”

So, what does this mean for the Panhandle?

I’ll admit that the GOP primary contest for the Texas Senate seat held by Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, frightened the bejabbers out of me. Seliger almost got beat in the March primary by former Midland mayor Mike Canon, a nice guy who’s also a TEA party mouthpiece. Canon suggested during the campaign that Seliger, a mainstream Republican former Amarillo mayor, was somehow in cahoots with them crazy liberals in Austin.

The Panhandle, indeed all of West Texas, dodged a bullet by re-nominating Seliger in the primary and allowing him to coast to re-election in an uncontested race in November.

What does the future hold? What might occur if, say, state Rep. John Smithee, R-Amarillo, packs it in? Smithee has served in the Legislature since 1985 and has developed a reputation as one of the smartest, most legislatively savvy members of the Texas House.

Who’s lying in wait out there for a key retirement? Who’s waiting in the tall grass waiting to seize the moment to launch a sound-bite campaign the way Hall did against Deuell?

It happened in a Texas Senate district down yonder. It can happen here.


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.

Hoping for a Seliger blowout

Of all the local races that have piqued my interest, one stands out.

The Texas Senate District 31 contest between incumbent Kel Seliger of Amarillo and former Midland Mayor Mike Canon had the earmarks of a true test of ideas.

It’s turned into an onslaught of half-truths and talking points from one of them, Canon.

Seliger is the Amarillo Republican who’s represented the sprawling Senate district since 2004. He turned into a quick study, learning rapidly the art of legislating, the language of the Senate — and he has shown an affinity for working with Democrats as well as Republicans, a trait that has gone missing among many members of both legislative houses in recent years.

Canon, meanwhile, has conducted a campaign that refers to Seliger as some kind of closet liberal, implying that he is misrepresenting the people of District 31.

I had the pleasure of taking part in a candidate forum sponsored by Panhandle PBS. I asked the men whether they supported term limits for legislators and to explain why or why not.

Canon offered the true-blue talking point that we need fresh ideas and a brisk turnover in the Senate. He owed to serve just two terms before bowing out.

Seliger, meanwhile, offered the nuanced answer I’ve come to expect from him. He said elections have a way of determining whether a legislator is doing his or her job properly and he wouldn’t commit to setting a term limit for himself.

Seliger gave the more honest and courageous answer given the tenor of much of the debate these days.

I just returned from the Dallas Metroplex, where I saw lawn signs scattered all over creation touting the virtues of “conservative Republican” candidates. What in the world differentiates Texas Republicans these days?

Canon is running as a “conservative Republican” candidate for the state Senate. Seliger is running as an accomplished incumbent who knows how the political system works.

My hope Tuesday is that Seliger scores a blowout win.

He’s done the job his constituents have sent him to do.

It’s starting to fly in Texas Senate District 31

Mike Canon apparently wants to be elected state senator from District 31 so badly that he’s willing to say anything to get the job done.

I thought better of the former Midland mayor until some TV ads began running that question whether the incumbent in that race, Sen. Kel Seliger, is “conservative” enough for West Texas.

He is.

Seliger is running for another term as state senator against someone whose campaign is being funded by what’s called “dark money,” which comes from anonymous donors who aren’t compelled to identify themselves, to hold themselves up for public inspection.

Canon’s latest gambit is to accuse Seliger of “siding with Wendy Davis,” the Democratic candidate for governor, in voting for a pay raise for legislators. Seliger’s response? “There were no such individual votes,” he asserts in a campaign push card.

Canon is seen as a tea party alternative to Seliger, meaning that the incumbent isn’t rabid enough in his support of issues near and dear to the far right wing of the Republican Party. The reality is that Seliger has become a nuanced politician able to understand the complexities of legislating and working with Democrats and Republicans to get something done for the state.

Canon, who is personally an engaging and charming gentleman, has fallen victim to the demagoguery that so often passes for political debate on the far right-wing fringes of his party.

Seliger need not make apologies for the way he has represented the sprawling Senate district.

I’m hoping he beats Canon like a drum next Tuesday. The man loves serving in the Texas Senate. He’s good at it. He needs to stay on the job.

Seliger leaves big footprint down south

Some in the media and in political circles are suggesting a North-South battle in the contest for Texas Senate District 31, an office currently occupied by Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo.

His challenger in the Republican primary — with no Democrats running this year — is Mike Canon, a former mayor of Midland.

Amarillo vs. Midland, North vs. South, Us vs. Them … whatever.

Aside from the fact that Seliger is far more fluent in the nuance of politics and legislating than his opponent — who tends to speak in talking points and clichés — I want to offer this little tidbit that might not be known around the vast Senate district.

Seliger has a single office in Amarillo, on Polk Street downtown. He’s got three of them within spitting distance of each other in the Permian Basin.

Seliger runs an office in Midland, one in Odessa — which is about a 20-minute drive down Interstate 20 — and one in Big Spring. Midland, Ector and Howard counties all can boast offices staffed by living, breathing human beings representing the district’s elected senator.

Is anyone in these parts carping about that disparity? I haven’t heard it.

Seliger’s near-decade in the Senate has demonstrated his attention to the entire district, which is one of the larger Senate districts in the Legislature. It stretches from the Oklahoma border to just past the Permian Basin. It takes half a day — by that I mean 12 hours — to drive from one end of the district and back again.

I trust the media and the political hounds campaigning around the district will take note of Seliger’s presence down south — where he has been anything but an absentee senator.

‘Grudge match’ emerges in Senate District 31

Texas Monthly editor/blogger Paul Burka has spilled the beans on the motive for the race that’s developing in Texas Senate District 31.

Turns out, according to Burka, that former Midland Mayor Mike Canon was recruited to run against Sen. Kel Seliger by Michael Quinn Sullivan, the tea party activist and political operator.


There’s plenty of bad blood between Seliger and Sullivan.

Seliger, indeed, has told me repeatedly over the years that he cannot stomach Sullivan’s hyper-conservative world view and the obstructionism he promotes within the Texas Legislature.

So, there you have it. My concern about Canon appears to be playing out. He’s running to Seliger’s right. I am guessing he’ll tack far to the right of the former Amarillo mayor.

Canon will want to do away with the Senate’s two-thirds rule, the one that requires 21 senators to approve any bill that goes to a vote. He’s likely to push hard to the right on issues such as immigration, state spending on public education and some environmental policies.

Seliger hardly has been a screaming lefty on all or any of these issues. If it’s true, as Burka suggests, that this challenge is the product of Sullivan’s personal antipathy toward Seliger, then the state — not to mention the West Texas Senate district Seliger represents — would be ill-served if voters turn against the incumbent.