Tag Archives: Texas governor

Kinky Friedman: ahead of his time

I enjoy looking back on musings I pushed out via my blog, seeking to find common ground with current events.

On July 28, 2010, I wrote a short piece about Kinky Friedman, the fascinating humorist who once ran for Texas governor. He was one of the more provocative and interesting political interviews I ever conducted.

He spoke about a notion that was getting some traction among Texas Republicans. He opposed building a wall along our southern border.

Where have you been, Kinky?

I won’t give up with this blog post what he said then, but I do want to alert you to what feared might occur in the United States if matters kept spiraling in a direction that Kinky didn’t like. Just check out the item I have attached to this post.

Kinky Friedman was way ahead of his time.

Kinky had the right idea

I dug out a blog item I posted in July 2010. It was a brief piece quoting former Texas gubernatorial candidate and current writer/musician/humorist Kinky Friedman.

Kinky said he opposed building a wall along our southern border.

I wrote this seven years ago: “I just heard him tell a TV interviewer that the nation’s first order of business is to secure the border. True enough. But then the humorist, author and former Texas gubernatorial candidate — he ran for governor in 2006 as an independent candidate — went a step further.

“He opposes building a fence along the southern border, an idea getting some traction among Republicans. Why not build a fence? ‘The way things are going in this country,’ Friedman said, ‘we may want to get out.’”

Now, Kinky Friedman’s shtick is as a humorist. Thus, it is difficult to take everything he says seriously.

Then again, he seems to have been ahead of his time.

I had the pleasure of interviewing him when he ran for Texas governor in 2006. I was editorial page editor for the Amarillo Globe-News and he came to the Panhandle to be interviewed by our editorial board. He sought our endorsement. I don’t recall in that interview ever mentioning Donald J. Trump’s name to Friedman; nor do I recall him ever bringing up the name of the future president of the United States.

But you know, his statement then does seem to have a strange ring of truth today as we watch the president make an utter hash out of damn near everything he touches.

Yeah, I do miss Kinky Friedman.

A higher-office campaign in the making?

The Texas Bathroom Bill is going to be on the agenda for the upcoming special session of the Texas Legislature.

Given that I no longer predict things political, I won’t say this is going to happen. Instead, I’ll just offer my lack of surprise if it does … which is whether Texas House Speaker Joe Straus is angling for a potential run for higher office in 2018.

Straus hates Senate Bill 6, which is the Bathroom Bill that got torpedoed in the regular legislative session. Who loves the bill? That would be Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who runs the Texas Senate.

Apparently, Gov. Greg Abbott favors the bill sufficiently to put it on the Legislature’s lengthy list of issues to consider for its special session.

According to the Texas Tribune: “I’m not a lawyer, but I am a Texan,” Straus said. “I’m disgusted by all this. Tell the lieutenant governor I don’t want the suicide of a single Texan on my hands.”

Straus said he is concerned about a potential spike in suicide among transgender Texans. The bill under consideration would require individuals to use public restrooms that align with the gender noted on their birth certificate. Is it discriminatory against transgender people? Straus thinks so, as do I.

Check out the Tribune story.

Straus will be up for re-election next year as well in his San Antonio House district. Were he to run for, say, lieutenant governor or governor in the Republican primary, he would be unable to seek GOP nomination for his House seat at the same time.

However, Straus is sounding quite like a champion for those who oppose the Bathroom Bill and his “disgust” over the legislation might spur him to seek higher office.

I believe I will plan to keep my eyes and ears open to this fellow’s immediate future.

Seliger takes brief turn as governor of Texas

I have had the pleasure and the honor of knowing many honorable men and women in public life throughout my 37 years in journalism. This blog post is about one of the good guys I have had the honor of knowing professionally and personally.

I wrote it initially for another medium, but I have chosen to post it here. My interview with state Sen. Kel Seliger took place just before Donald Trump’s inauguration as president of the United States.


On a day just prior to the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump – when Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick were out of the state to attend the festivities in Washington, D.C. – Kelton Gray “Kel” Seliger had the task of serving as Texas’s acting governor.

It’s a responsibility – absent the perks of the job – granted to him by Patrick, who just days earlier had named him president pro tem of the Texas Senate. He was put in charge of the state in the absence of the two top statewide elected officials.

Seliger, a Republican who has served in the Senate since 2004, didn’t arrive this day with any Texas Rangers security detail in tow. There were no special arrangements made, no announcement of his arrival, no fanfare.

Seliger represents a district that stretches from the Texas-Oklahoma border about 100 miles of Amarillo to the Permian Basin, which is another 200 miles south. He maintains Senate offices in Amarillo and Midland and is now essentially a full-time legislator, having sold the steel business he owned with his brother, Lane, several years ago.

He is a native of Borger who graduated from Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., and who returned to the Panhandle to stake out his future. Seliger entered public service as an Amarillo city commissioner in 1989 and then served as mayor from 1993 until 2001 before joining the Senate after President George W. Bush appointed the late Sen. Teel Bivins to be U.S. ambassador to Sweden.

Seliger chairs the Senate Higher Education Committee and serves also on the Senate Education Committee.

We chatted for a time over lunch. Here is what I learned about Kel Seliger.

Should the state start over with its standardized testing requirement for public school students?

“There’s no need to start over,” Seliger said. “But we need to refine it. We need accountability. These tests are for adults, too,” he said, referring to educators. “Kids take tests all the time. Start over? No. Make it better.”

Are you getting special protection from the Texas Rangers while serving as acting governor?

“Not that I’m aware of,” he said. “They may be around, watching my back. I’m quite sure if they had the remotest sense my new temporary status created a situation, they’d be here in a heartbeat.”

Are you empowered to act fully as governor?

“If there is a situation that requires immediate action as governor, yes,” he explained, referring to a possible natural disaster or other catastrophic event. “But if there was something I would encounter that would require action of another sort, I would check with Gov. Abbott to see if he is OK with whatever I would do.”

But what if we have a natural disaster? Could you then act as governor?

“We have emergency people, first responders, on site. (Department of Public Safety) officials would tell me what’s happened. They then would put me in touch with the governor as quickly as possible” to coordinate the state’s response, Seliger replied.

Why are you serving?

“I love public policy,” Seliger said, “and this is the place to do public policy. If you have a good idea, you can work with people and get things done. In Washington,” he said, echoing the new president, “nothing gets done.”

What has been your greatest success in the Senate?

“I think I have made a meaningful contribution to things that matter. I have been able to focus on water policy and supporting water conservation districts,” he said.

What piece of legislation that has your name on it makes you most proud?

Seliger said he doesn’t have a “particular favorite,” but said he is proud of Senate Bill 149 which “allows kids who don’t pass the STAAR test, but who do all the rest of their course work and then stand before a committee of teachers and administrators to walk across the stage and get their diploma.” He also is proud of a bill he authored that the 2015 Legislature approved that set aside money for construction of buildings on 64 higher education campuses in Texas. “And that includes about $6 million for construction of West Texas A&M’s downtown campus in Amarillo.”

And your biggest disappointment?

“I had a bill that would have banned ‘dark money,’” Seliger said, explaining that “dark money” comprises funds that come from tax-exempt sources but which the public “has no idea who’s giving it” to politicians. “This bill was vetoed after the 2013 session by Gov. (Rick) Perry.” He said the then-governor’s reason for vetoing the bill “was not discernable.”

Do we pay state legislators enough to serve?

“We get paid enough so that people don’t have the impression we’re doing this for the money,” he said of the $600 monthly stipend, plus the per-diem expense paid to lawmakers while the Legislature is in session. “And contrary to what a lot of folks believe about the Legislature, we don’t get just rich people to serve,” he said. “Many legislators are working people who give up their regular jobs to serve in the Legislature.”

How does your Senate district benefit tangibly from your service in the Texas Senate?

“Others should be the ones to make that judgment. I like to think we’re working on issues relating to public education and higher education,” Seliger said. “Everyone who serves in elected office believes that they are making the world a better place. I’m just trying to work with people in our West Texas cities, towns and universities.”

Describe your relationship with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

“We have an effective working relationship,” Seliger said of the man who presides over the Senate. “Look, he named me (Higher Education Committee) chairman. He didn’t have to do that.”

You almost lost your re-election bid in 2014. Are you going to run again in 2018?

“I don’t know,” Seliger said. As for his 2014 Republican Party primary challenge from former Midland Mayor Mike Canon, he responded, “I won with 52 percent of the vote. I don’t think that’s ‘almost losing’ the contest.” He continued: “I don’t intend to stay in the Senate until I’m a doddering old fool, drooling on my lapels.”

What did you see for yourself when you were 10 years old?

Seliger smiled broadly. “I saw myself as Roy Rogers,” he said. Why Roy Rogers? “Hey, I was 10 years old – living in Borger, Texas.”


You go, Gov. Perry!


I have lived in Texas for 32-plus years.

For most of that time, Rick Perry has been in the public eye: as a then-Democratic state legislator from Haskell County, as Texas agriculture commissioner, as state lieutenant governor, as governor and as a two-time Republican candidate for president of the United States.

I’ve never rooted for him to win anything.

Until now.

He has been selected to compete on “Dancing With the Stars.”

Our paths have crossed a few times over the years. I first met him in Beaumont, when he ran for agriculture commissioner. I would talk to him again after he was elected lieutenant governor and then governor. The late state Sen. Teel Bivins once introduced Perry to my wife and me while we were attending a Chamber of Commerce event in downtown Amarillo.

I’ve never particularly cared for the man’s politics, nor his personal demeanor for that matter.

He’s going to cut a rug, so to speak, on the ABC-TV network show.

I have no earthly clue as to why I actually am pulling for him to win. It might be that he’ll be a huge underdog. I don’t know who else is in the mix, but I’m sure there’ll be a healthy complement of athletes whose athletic skill requires them to be nimble on their feet.

I remember when Tom DeLay, the Republican U.S. House majority leader, kicked up his heels on the show. He was a great sport when he lost out early in the competition. Will the same fate await his good friend and fellow GOPer Rick Perry?

The world awaits … with bated breath.

First, though, I have to remember to watch the show!

That, right there, is going to be a challenge.

Perry heading for the exit?


It isn’t supposed to end this way, but that’s where it’s headed.

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the one-time TEA Party darling and conservative firebrand, is — shall we say — in a critical flameout.

The former U.S. Air Force pilot knows of what I speak. His campaign “engine” has stalled and he cannot get it to reignite.

I am not crying crocodile tears over this. Honestly, I was hoping he’d do better in this presidential campaign than he did in the previous one that was punctuated by the infamous “oops” moment.

Perry campaign on the ropes

Perry pulled the plug on his 2012 Republican presidential campaign, came back to Texas to finish his stint as the state’s governor; he rested up, cracked the books and studied the issues; then he returned to the campaign hoping to redeem himself.

Being that I prefer political redemption over condemnation in almost all cases, I was pulling for Perry to do better.

He’s not. He has run into the buzzsaw aka Donald Trump. The TEA Party faithful have turned to others, such as Trump, Rick Santorum, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina … oh, I could go on, but you get the point.

Perry has quit paying his campaign staff. He’ giving up on New Hampshire. Still, he calls the race a “marathon” and insists he’s in it for the duration.

Well, it now appears that the duration has arrived.


So much for Texas ethics reform

Gov. Greg Abbott wanted the Texas Legislature to improve the state’s ethical conduct rules.

The first-term governor didn’t get anything close to what he wanted. Indeed, the just-concluded legislative session drew some barbs from members of the Texas Ethics Commission. And when those guys ding you, well, you’ve been dinged.


It appears that the Legislature went the other way. According to former Ethics panel chairman Jim Clancy, some bills awaiting Abbott’s signature “scare me to death.”

One of them makes it easier for political spouses’ financial statements to be hidden. According to the Texas Tribune, the bill repeals an earlier reform aimed at requiring such disclosure.

Nicely done, legislators. Just kidding, of course.

The Texas ethical code is pretty loose as it is. Lawmakers can leave public office and move directly into lobbying positions, where they can persuade their former legislative pals to back bills in the best interests of the new lobbyists’ clients. Cooling-off period? Forget about it.

The governor can try again in 2017 when the next Legislature returns. He’ll have logged some time in office. Perhaps he can use that time to persuade his friends in the Legislature that he really means it.

Reform, improve and tighten the state’s ethical code, or else. What’s more, Gov. Abbott, make the “or else” mean something.


Perry faces big hurdles

Ross Ramsey is about as smart a Texas political analyst as there is, and he’s laid out three things Rick Perry must do to wage an effective campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

Ramsey, writing for the Texas Tribune, listed them in this order: (1) stay the course while the field thins out; (2) get rid of the prosecutor who’s trying to convict him of abuse of power; (3) do well in the debates.

If Ramsey was listing them in order of importance, I’d flip the first and second points.


Those “pesky prosecutors” represent every possible stumbling block for the former Texas governor.

Perry, who today went to Addison to announce his candidacy, appears to the be the first major candidate ever to run for president while facing felony indictment. A Travis County grand jury indicted him for abuse of power and coercion of a public official in 2014.

The history is out there. Ramsey goes through it in the link attached here.

If Perry cannot shake those prosecutors, then it’s game over.

And by “shaking” them, he must get the indictments tossed out.

As Ramsey notes: “Perry and his legal team have argued that the case is a political one brought by liberal prosecutors in a liberal county to a liberal grand jury, that his veto was legal, and that the whole thing was designed to spoil his political future.”

The veto might have been legal, but it also was done with considerable public-relations fanfare, which is why — in my view — the coercion charge might be the one that sticks more stubbornly than the abuse of power allegation.

All the then-governor had to do was veto the money appropriated to the Public Integrity Unit without making such a public case about the district attorney’s arrest for drunken driving and his public threat to veto the money if she didn’t quit her job as Travis County DA.

Was it legal? Sure. Was it a matter of coercion? Yes to that, too … allegedly.

Ramsey is correct on this other point: “The better (Perry) does, the bigger the indictment obstacle becomes. It’s a bother now. It’s a potential deal-breaker if he becomes a real contender.”


Rick Perry 2.0 makes another run for White House

Here we go again.

Rick Perry is going to run for president of the United States of America.

The former longest-serving Texas governor in state history hopes for a much better outcome than his first effort, which ended in January 2012 — before the first Republican primary ever took place. He stumbled, bumbled and fumbled badly that first time out. His debate performances were hideous, highlighted by the infamous “oops” moment which he couldn’t name the third of three federal agencies he’d dismantle if he were elected president.


He’s back now.

Ready for action.

He’s changed his look, wearing those eyeglasses.

Perry thinks we need a president who’ll tell them the truth, who’ll lead from the front, who’ll do all the things he says the current administration hasn’t done.

This campaign differs from the first one, however, in another key way. He became an instant frontrunner when he announced his intention to seek the 2012 GOP nomination. Perry enters this race as a distant also-ran in a field headed — for now — by the likes of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; there might be another name or three out there at the front of the pack, but Perry’s name ain’t one of them.

And I haven’t even mentioned, until right now, that he’s the first declared presidential candidate in history to run while under indictment alleging abuse of power. But, hey, that’s another story for another day.

Back when he was running for president in late 2011, I would hear from more than one Texas Panhandle Republican — and believe me, I live in the most GOP-friendly region of this GOP-friendly state — that they hoped he’d become president, but for reasons I didn’t expect to hear.

They wanted Perry to win because they wanted “to get him out of Texas.”

Abbott challenged by forces beyond control

This is why we pay the governor the big bucks.

He or she must deal with forces they cannot control. Political will? Forget about it. Returning favors? Not a chance. Paying someone back for doing you wrong? Not even close.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is dealing with forces no one can control.


As the Texas Tribune reports, Abbott’s immediate predecessor in the governor’s office, Rick Perry, quips to audiences to this day, that “Nobody gave me the manual” that explains how he copes with disaster.

Perry had his share during his 14 years as governor: hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, that big fertilizer plant blast in West. He had to buck up and just plain lead.

Abbott is now facing his own challenge barely five months into his first term.

Our weather has turned on us. Yes, it’s good to have the moisture — a term that seems quaint, given the volume of water that has fallen all across the state. The floods it has produced, though, is spreading heartache, grief and misery throughout much of the Hill Country and the Gulf Coast.

Abbott says the flooding is the worst in Texas history. He spoke by phone with President Obama, who pledged the federal government’s full support in helping Texas deal with this tragedy. Indeed, this is precisely the occasion to put all political differences aside — and there exist plenty of them between the governor and the president — while all parties work on behalf of stricken victims.

Has the governor done all he can do? I’m not prepared to make that judgment. The Texas Tribune reports: “To be sure, Abbott’s handling of the crisis has not been without some questions, including whether the state was fully prepared for the unrelenting run of inclement weather that began weeks ago. At news conferences throughout the state this week, he has assured reporters Texas was ready and everything worked that was supposed to.”

Actually, it seems almost impossible for any governor — or any elected official at almost any level — to be fully ready when events spring forth the way the flooding has done throughout the state.

This is Gov. Abbott’s crisis now. No one schooled him precisely on how to deal with it.

Let’s just call it a hyper-serious on-the-job training class.

We’ll see how it all grades out when the water recedes and Texans start reassembling their shattered lives.