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Are Panhandle Republicans Bucking The Texas GOP?

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT News

From Texas Standard

While news that Texas House Speaker Joe Straus wouldn’t be seeking re-election reverberated through the state capital last week, we got word of more turmoil in the Texas Republican Party – this time involving state Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo.

Lubbock Avalanche-Journal columnist Jay Leeson says the Panhandle is rumbling again.

During the legislative session this year, Leeson says Seliger consistently voted with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on 30 occasions – he voted against him only twice.

Now that Seliger is running for re-election, state Rep. Ken King (R-Canadian) said in an interview with The Canadian Record that he believes Patrick is staging a race against Seliger.

Seliger’s two GOP primary challengers are restaurateur Victor Leal and former Midland Mayor Mike Canon.

“What King and others believe is that this has been contrived by the lieutenant governor, whose own consultant is running Victor Leal’s campaign,” Leeson says.

In the interview with The Canadian Record, King called Patrick a “carpetbagger who came from Maryland and changed his name from Dannie Goeb to be in politics.” He believes that Seliger was “punished for not carrying the water for Patrick last session.”

Leeson says the Panhandle has a long history of not falling in line politically. “The Panhandle’s always bucked the powers that be, the establishment that exists,” he says.

So is the Texas GOP headed for civil war?

“I think the bottom line is that what the Panhandle is showing is that there has to be a shift away from this prevailing brand of suburban-defined, one-size-fits-all conservatism, which is what Austin’s current political establishment wants,” Leeson says. “There needs to be room for a Panhandle-branded, independent conservatism that can be tailored from place to place.”

Written by Jen Rice.

Rhonda joined KUT in late 2013 as producer for the station's new daily news program, Texas Standard. Rhonda will forever be known as the answer to the trivia question, “Who was the first full-time hire for The Texas Standard?” She’s an Iowa native who got her start in public radio at WFSU in Tallahassee, while getting her Master's Degree in Library Science at Florida State University. Prior to joining KUT and The Texas Standard, Rhonda was a producer for Wisconsin Public Radio.
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