DALLAS — The landscape continues to shift in the race for Texas Lieutenant Governor.
State Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) is now the latest elected Texas official to add his name to the list of prominent Republicans supporting Democrat Mike Collier over incumbent Dan Patrick in the upcoming Nov. 8 general elections.
"As we become more and more diverse in the state of Texas, our leadership needs to adapt to that diversity and try to represent all of the people in the state of Texas -- even the ones with whom we have philosophical disagreements," Seliger said on this week's episode of WFAA's Y’all-itics podcast. "I think that’s very important. Dan Patrick is an extremist."
If nothing else, Mike Collier certainly appreciates the help, acknowledging that the sudden GOP support for his candidacy is energizing his campaign all across the state.
The Democrat thinks he knows why it’s happening, too. He said to Y'all-itics that he thought it represented more than just some disgruntled Republicans.
"I think they’re concerned about the direction of the state," told the podcast this week. "The Lieutenant Governor has outsized influence on where we go as a state -- and we are not headed in the right place."
While significant, Senator Seliger’s support isn’t necessarily surprising. There has been bad blood between Seliger, a Republican from Amarillo, and incumbent Texas Lt. Gov. Patrick for years.
Seliger didn’t endorse the Republican incumbent for re-election in 2018, either -- although he also didn’t actively support anyone else in the race. (Seliger is quick to point out that Patrick didn’t endorse him that year either.)
Fast forward four years and, with Seliger retiring at the end of this year, the gloves are now off. Patrick’s campaign has described Seliger and Republican Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley, who also recently said he’ll vote for Collier and who is also retiring at the end of the year, as "dinosaurs" searching for relevance.
We invited Patrick to join us on either Y’all-itics or "Inside Texas Politics" this week to expand on that statement. A spokesman for his campaign told us he was unavailable.
As for Seliger, he said he’s backing Collier partly for the state of Texas and partly for the Texas Senate. He said he felt the Republican caucus in the Senate has long been working under the threat of demotion.
"In 2017, the lieutenant governor made a big pronouncement that he had 30 priorities, 30 legislative priorities," Seliger said. "No other lieutenant governor had really done something like that. I voted against two of them -- and, for that, I lost my chairmanship and I lost membership on things like the finance committee, which was a real slap in the face to the people in west Texas. And that’s the way the Senate runs [under Patrick]."
The question now becomes whether these Republicans supporting a Democrat is a canary in the coal mine for the Texas GOP or just a passing fad.
Collier would have you believe it's the former. He said he’s met with at least a dozen elected, Republican officials in person about supporting his election. His campaign later told us the figure was likely well over two dozen in actuality.
"Sometimes it’s OK to be seen walking into their office," Collier told Y'all-itics, smiling. "Sometimes we meet someplace else so that nobody can see."
Votebeat Editorial Director Jessica Huseman said the Republican endorsements for Collier actually reflect a national trend. Votebeat is a nonprofit news organization that closely follows elections and voting on a local level.
Huseman has spent a lot of time talking to Texans -- residents and politicians alike. And she told Y'all-itics that, while nothing may change this November, Texas could be looking at some shakeups in 2024 or 2026.
"We're already seeing a generational shift in Texas," Huseman said. "So, if the Republican Party is feeling like they have to move back on some of their most extreme positions right now, I think that that sort of sets the stage for a leftward movement in the state -- like slow, and comparatively not as left as other states. But, y'know, Texas can't really get any farther right."