Tag Archives: Texas GOP

GOP fighting among its members

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

This isn’t a scoop, but it is clear that today’s Republican Party is locked in an internecine battle over the path it should take toward its future.

Yes, it causes me plenty of grief. Not because I am a card-carrying Republican — although I have voted in plenty of GOP primary elections over the years — but because it forces me to align with my  Republican friends who I consider to be on the “good side” of that intraparty battle.

I lived and worked in the heart and soul of the Texas Republican Party for nearly 23 years, nearly 18 of them as editorial page editor of the I know many fine elected officials all of whom are Republica Amarillo Globe-News. I resigned from that post nearly nine years ago, but I have retained many personal friendships with those individuals.

They are being whipsawed by competing factors: the beliefs of those who they represent in public office and their own view of what constitutes a “real Republican.” OK, you know that I am talking about the cult of personality that has evolved since the emergence of Donald John Trump on the political landscape. He ran for president of the United States as a Republican while campaigning as a so-called “populist” who by definition abhors concentrating power in the hands of the “elite.” Is that how he governed? Hah!

He’s out of office — thank Almighty God in Heaven! Trump’s legacy lives on in the minds of those who continue to believe in the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him. The Big Lie taints everything about Trump and the party he purportedly represented while campaigning for the presidency and then serving as president for the past four years.

Meanwhile, we see actual GOP officeholders and contenders for public office trying to sell their ideas to a constituency that has swilled the snake oil sold to them by the presidential imposter known as Donald Trump.

How do these actual Rs compete with that? Thus, we see how this conflict is playing out.

I pity those friends I consider to be actual Republicans. They are caught in a struggle exacerbated by the lies — led by the Big Lie — told by the individual who grabbed their party by the throat. He is throttling the life out of it.

Rep. Slaton makes early impact

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Oh, brother.

I commented earlier on this blog about my respect for Texas state Sen. Kel Seliger, the Amarillo Republican whom Texas Monthly has identified as one of seven legislators to watch during the current Texas Legislature.

Well, TM also has ID’d a bold, brash and bodacious freshman lawmaker, a young man I know only casually, but who is — shall we say — also worth watching for an entirely different set of reasons.

State Rep. Bryan Slaton is another Republican. He hails from Royse City, just a bit east-southeast of where I now live. TM calls him The Fearless Freshman. Why? He is unafraid to make a name for himself for reasons that run quite counter to my own political world view.

Slaton got elected this past year, defeating longtime fellow conservative state Rep. Dan Flynn. I was aghast that he would run “to the right” of Flynn, but he did.

What does the young man do when he arrives in Austin for the start of the Legislature? He pitches a bill that would criminalize the act of a woman obtaining an abortion; she would, in Flynn’s eyes, be guilty of “murder” and would be subject to the state’s death penalty if she is tried and convicted of murder.

Texas Monthly wrote this about Slaton: A principled hard-right conservative and Gen Xer, Slaton is stepping into the void left by former representative Jonathan Stickland, a Bedford Republican who made his reputation as a troublemaker and thorn in the side of his party’s establishment. Slaton says he is focused on advancing social-conservative priorities, including eliminating abortion (by passing a law declaring the Roe v. Wade unconstitutional) and protecting historical monuments (by requiring a two-thirds vote to remove one of, say, a Confederate general, from a state university). 

Seven Texas Lawmakers to Watch – Texas Monthly

He also seems to believe that Texas can secede — again! — from the United States of America. Hasn’t anyone told him (a) that secession is illegal and (b) that the first time Texas did it in 1861, it didn’t work out well for Texas — or for the rest of the Confederate States of America?

My only visit with Slaton was over the phone. We had a cordial conversation. I was working on a story I wrote for KETR-FM, the public radio station affiliated with Texas A&M University-Commerce. I hope to be able to talk to him in the future as needs arise.

However, I must be candid. If he flies off the rails and starts yapping about secession, or protecting monuments honoring Confederate traitors or sentencing women in trouble to the death chamber, well … it could get ugly. In a big hurry.

Seliger makes a key TM list

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Ya gotta hand it to Andrea Zelinski, a writer for Texas Monthly.

She does her homework. Texas Monthly has published a story listing seven Texas legislators to watch in the current session that is set to adjourn at the end of May. One of them is a senator I happen to know pretty well: Republican Kel Seliger of Amarillo.

Zelinski has labeled Seliger “The Swing Vote,” a guy who could tip the balance in either direction on key legislation. And why is that the case? Seliger is a “maverick” in the Senate because, according to Zelinski, he adheres to traditional conservative Republican values. You know, things like local government control at the expense of overreaching state interference.

Amazing, yes? I believe it is.

Seliger served as Amarillo mayor for a decade before being elected to the Senate in 2004. He learned Legislature-speak quickly and became fluent in the jargon that lawmakers use when talking to each other. He also developed plenty of alliances across the aisle, you know, making friends with Democrats. He once told he one of his best friends in the Senate was McAllen Democrat Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, with whom he has worked closely.

Seliger also has crossed swords with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a darling of the TEA Party/Freedom Caucus movement. Seliger spouted off during the 2019 Legislature about one of Patrick’s key aides. So what did Patrick do? He stripped Seliger of his Higher Education Committee chairmanship and removed him from the Education Committee.

Seven Texas Lawmakers to Watch – Texas Monthly

That hasn’t stopped Seliger from exerting his influence among his Senate peers, who I gathered over the years have developed a firm respect for his legislative integrity.

Zelinski writes in TM: Seliger once again might be a crucial swing vote, particularly on policing issues. The 31-member Senate has 18 Republicans, and new Senate rules require bills to receive 18 votes to reach the floor. Both Patrick and Abbott are bent on punishing Austin for reducing funding for its police department, with the governor suggesting that the state freeze property tax revenues of cities that shrink their police budgets. Though Seliger says Austin’s budget reduction in 2020 was “absolutely terrible,” the former mayor adamantly opposes Abbott’s bid to have the state dictate policy in areas traditionally considered the province of city and county governments, calling it “almost Soviet.” “If Greg Abbott wants to be the mayor of Austin, he can do it in a heartbeat and he’d be a very good one,” Seliger told me. “Do we [the Lege] need to go set the speed limit on Austin’s streets? And do we need to determine where stop signs go on Austin’s streets? No, we don’t. That’s what they elect [city officials] for.” 

My goodness, Sen. Seliger is out of control!

That’s OK with me.

Texas joins Jim Crow cabal of states … sad

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Texas aims to join a cabal of states aiming to roll back voting opportunities under the guise of protecting the electoral system against the phony allegation of widespread voter fraud.

President Biden has labeled the effort signed into law in Georgia as “Jim Crow in the 21st century.” He could hurl the same epithet over this way in Texas.

Senate Bill 7 seeks to prohibit drive-through voting, seeks to limit the number of polling places, seeks to prohibit officials from asking voters fill out applications to vote by mail — even if they qualify.

What is going on here? I think I know. We have a Republican-led legislative effort aimed at retaining GOP power in state government for as long as they can despite the seemingly inexorable shift in the demographic makeup in Texas, which is becoming what has been called a “majority minority” state.

Quite soon, ethnic and racial minorities will comprise a majority of the state’s voting population. Those voters — big surprise! — tend to vote more Democratic than Republican. Thus, we are witnessing this effort to head off the shift in power.

The Texas Tribune reports:

SB 7, which was offered under the banner of “election integrity,” sailed out of the Republican-dominated Senate State Affairs Committee on a party-line vote and now heads to the full Senate. The bill is a significant piece in a broader legislative effort by Texas Republicans this year to enact sweeping changes to elections in the state that would scale up already restrictive election rules.

In presenting the bill to the committee on Friday, Republican state Sen. Bryan Hughes described the legislation as an effort to strike a balance between “maintaining fair and honest elections with the opportunity to exercise one’s right to vote.”

But the bill was met with a chorus of opposition. Advocates for people with disabilities and voting rights tagged the proof of disability requirement as harmful and potentially unlawful. The bill was also widely panned as detrimental to local efforts that would widen access to voting, particularly extended early voting hours and drive-thru voting offered in Harris County in November.

Texas Republicans’ bill to tighten voting rules gets Senate committee OK | The Texas Tribune

This is an insidious trend that bodes grim news for the future of the state if it is allowed to continue.

Foolishness too often dominates Legislature

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

A proposal to make abortion a capital crime in Texas — allowing the state to administer a potential death sentence for a woman who terminates a pregnancy — brings to mind some of the idiocy that too often permeates the state’s legislative process.

State Rep. Bryan Slaton, a Royse City Republican, has pitched the legislative “remedy” to abortion. It shouldn’t, if reason holds up, have a chance in hell of being enacted and then signed into law.

Abortion happens to be legal in this country and for the Legislature to waste a moment of valuable time on this bill is, well, a disgrace.

So is this horrendous talk of secession, which once again has entered the public debate. Texas cannot legally secede from the Union. Period. End of discussion. Yet some Texas Republicans — starting with the party chairman, Allen West — think it’s OK to give Texans a vote on that matter.

Ridiculous.

Texas needs to devote its energy to issues that matter. We need to maintain our roads and highways. And, oh yes, we also have that energy issue to discuss and repair.

Texans went without power in February during that ice and snow storm. Some of us are still without potable water. The state has to fix the way it manages its electrical grid to avoid a repeat of what transpired during the Storm of 2021.

Still, the Legislature every other year spends too much valuable time dawdling and discussing matters that have no prayer of becoming law. I get that we don’t pay our legislators much money when they meet in Austin every odd-numbered year, but for crying out loud, I just wish they would take all the time they have available working for the general public good.

GOP = voter suppression

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Honest to goodness, this is the truth, which is that I do not want to believe Republicans favor limiting Americans’ access to voting.

However, it is clear to anyone with a working brain that the GOP is aligned with those who want to restrict many Americans’ rights as citizens of this great land.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has sharpened his political long knife in endorsing a Republican plan to limit access to voting while the state is fighting the pandemic. He targets one of the state’s largest Democratic leaning counties, Harris County.

The Texas Tribune reports: At a press conference in Houston, Abbott served up the opening salvo in the Texas GOP’s legislative response to the 2020 election and its push to further restrict voting by taking aim at local election officials in the state’s most populous and Democratically controlled county. The governor specifically criticized officials in Harris County for attempting to send applications to vote by mail to every registered voter and their bid to set up widespread drive-thru voting, teeing up his support for legislation that would prohibit both initiatives in future elections.

“Whether it’s the unauthorized expansion of mail-in ballots or the unauthorized expansion of drive-thru voting, we must pass laws to prevent election officials from jeopardizing the election process,” Abbott said on Monday. Harris County planned to send out applications to request a mail-in ballot, not the actual ballots.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott backs bills that restrict efforts to expand voting | The Texas Tribune

Texas is not alone. Other states where Republicans command power are taking similar actions.

“These kinds of attempts to confuse, to intimidate, to suppress are a continuation of policies we’ve seen in this state since Reconstruction,” Democratic Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said. “It is a continuation as well of the big lie that’s being peddled by some far-right elements that the election in 2020 was somehow not true and should be overturned.”

What troubles me is that the phony charge of vote fraud is being used as political cover for more nefarious motives designed to prevent racial and ethnic minorities from being able to vote. My goodness, I hate thinking that is the real reason, but the actions of Texas Republican legislators — as well as Gov. Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — leave me with no choice but to assume the worst.

It sickens and saddens me.

Gov. Allen West? Eek!

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

So help me, I do not know what I am likely to do if Allen West decides to challenge Greg Abbott in the 2022 Texas Republican gubernatorial primary.

I do not intend to leave Texas. However, this state remains a ruby-red Republican state, which suggests to me that whoever the GOP nominates for governor next year stands a good chance of being elected.

West is a bomb-throwing, fire-breathing, reckless and feckless Texas Republican Party chairman. He has lived in Texas for just a few years. He once served in Congress, representing a Florida district for a single term before he got beat for re-election. Then he moved Texas in search of a political job. He found one at the state GOP headquarters.

The guy is a kook. He’s nuttier than a fruitcake. He has said Texans should have the right to vote on whether to secede from the Union. Good, ever-lovin’ grief!

Allen West floats secession after Supreme Court rejects Texas election challenge – Washington Times

He now is being talked about as a possible primary challenger to Gov. Abbott, who is thinking openly about running for president in 2024.

I long have harbored suspicions about the Texas GOP. They were more or less confirmed when it elected a wacko as its chairman. Now he aspires to higher office? Ugh! I have hoped for a return to sanity in this once-great political party. I sense that it will remain certifiably nutty as we enter the next political season.

As for Abbott, well, he’s disappointed me, too. He recently began lying about President Biden’s immigration policy, suggesting it was luring more migrants into Texas who were bringing COVID infection with them. An Abbott-West primary fight would present a miserable choice for Texas Republican voters. But … that ain’t my decision to make.

I am going to try to keep an open mind about how the GOP primary plays out. I also can hope that Allen West will decide against running for governor. We already have too many Republican fire breathers occupying statewide office.

Secession? Are they serious?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

It’s close being declared official, that the Texas Republican Party has lost what passes for its mind. Hey, maybe it already is an official declaration!

Get a load of this: the Texas GOP has signed on to a proposal to allow Texans to vote on whether the state should secede from the Union and form an independent nation.

The Guardian reports: In a talk show interview, the party chair, Allen West, argued that: “Texans have a right to voice their opinions on [this] critical issue.

“I don’t understand why anyone would feel that they need to prevent people from having a voice in something that is part of the Texas constitution,” the former Florida congressman said of the Texas Referendum Independence Act. “You cannot prevent the people from having a voice.”

Texas Republicans endorse legislation to allow vote on secession from US | Texas | The Guardian

Allen West is out of his mind. He has gone around the bend. His butter has slipped off his noodle.

What are we to expect from a one-term Florida congressman who moved to Texas specifically to hijack the state GOP. Oh, I should also mention that he resigned from the Army after being accused of mistreating Iraqi prisoners of war during the Iraq War.

Now he is lending his voice to the craziest notion since, oh, the last time Texas seceded from the U.S. of A., in 1861, when it joined the Confederate States of America, which then lost the Civil War, the bloodiest armed conflict in our nation’s history!

This secession issue has been around ever since. It keeps cropping up during Texas legislative sessions. Kinda like the way fire ant mounds pop up after a spring thunderstorm.

The Texas Tribune reported in January that secession is illegal.

Texas can’t secede from the U.S. Here’s why. | The Texas Tribune

You don’t have to take my word for it; a lot of brainiacs have said that any notion that Texas can secede is the stuff of lunatics.

When in the name of political sanity is the Texas Republican Party going to pull its head out of its a**? Ever?

Bill takes aim at in-state tuition

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

A couple of North Texas freshmen legislators don’t like the idea of allowing undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities.

I believe they are mistaken if they think the state is going to reap a reward by making it difficult for young Texas residents to achieve higher education degrees.

State Reps. Bryan Slaton of Royse City and Jeff Cason of Bedford — both Republicans — have proposed a bill that would allow colleges to determine a student’s residence and decide whether they qualify for in-state tuition.

I will interject that two other Texas Republican politicians of considerable note — Govs. George W. Bush and Rick Perry — endorsed the idea of allowing undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition. Why? Because both of them recognized the value that college educations bring to the state, even when some of its residents lack the necessary immigration documents.

Bush, Perry are right about in-state tuition issue | High Plains Blogger

I don’t know what Gov. Greg Abbott would do with a bill if it reaches his desk. I am wishing he would veto it.

This legislation falls into the “heartless” category of lawmaking. It seeks to target Texas residents who are seeking to improve their circumstance by attending higher education institutions. Given that they do reside in Texas, they have — in my humble estimation — earned the right to attend these schools as Texas residents.

The Texas Tribune reported: “Texans’ tax dollars should not be used to reward and encourage illegal immigration to our state and nation,” Cason said in a statement.

Texas lawmakers want to block in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants | The Texas Tribune

Maybe I am slow on the uptake, but I am having a bit of difficulty understanding how allowing these students to pay in-state tuition constitutes a Texas taxpayer subsidy, or how it encourages “illegal immigration to our state and nation.”

President Biden already has restored the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program for those undocumented immigrants who were brought here by their parents. Many of those DACA recipients are enrolled in Texas public colleges and universities. They might be deemed unable to continue their education if Slaton and Cason’s bill becomes law.

This law deserves the fate that a 2019 effort met. It failed to come out of the House Higher Education Committee. I hope this notion withers and dies, too.

Good luck, Speaker Phelan

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The Dade Phelan Era has commenced in the Texas House of Representatives and — wouldn’t you know it — he already is taking some incoming fire from those on the far right wing of his Republican Party.

Phelan is the newly elected speaker of the House. He is a Beaumont Republican who had the temerity to suggest he wants to work well with Democrats who comprise a substantial minority of the 150-member legislative body.

One of the two House members who voted against Phelan happens to be freshman GOP Rep. Bryan Slaton of Royse City, who said in a statement that he voted against Phelan because the new speaker is someone “who has refused to articulate to Republicans whether or not he believes we should have a true conservative session.”

Dade Phelan elected speaker of the Texas House | The Texas Tribune

What the hell does that mean? Is Slaton suggesting that Phelan’s more bipartisan approach will result in more dreaded “liberal policies” that Slaton and other right wingers cannot support? Slaton is parroting the language used by Texas GOP chairman Allen West, the transplanted Florida fire breather who moved to Texas and got elected party chairman this past year. West doesn’t much like Phelan’s approach, either.

I want to remind everyone here that bipartisanship has worked well for previous speakers of the Texas House. My favorite example of the success of that approach involves former Speaker Pete Laney, the Hale Center Democrat who hardly  legislated as a flaming liberal when he served as the Man of the House. He reached across the aisle frequently and governed on the policy of letting “the will of the House” do its job.

“We must all do our part — not as Republicans or Democrats, but as Texans and Americans,” Phelan said. “Let us unite in one common purpose to do what is right for the people of Texas.”

Wow. That’s hardly lifted from the Communist Manifesto.

I want to wish the new speaker well as he takes the gavel. It likely will be a difficult session that will demand that everyone search fervently for “one common purpose.”