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Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick disciplines Sen. Kel Seliger over ‘lewd comment’

January 22, 2019

Just four days after being named the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, state Sen. Kel Seliger had that title taken away by Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick Tuesday as punishment for comments the Amarillo Republican made on a talk radio show in West Texas.

In a short written statement to the media, Patrick said he first gave Seliger a chance to apologize for what he said about Sherry Sylvester, a senior adviser to Patrick.

“I met with Sen. Seliger earlier today and gave him an opportunity to apologize for a lewd comment he made on radio about a female staffer that has shocked everyone,” Patrick said. “He had 48 hours to apologize, but failed to do so.”

Seliger, insulted by a remark Sylvester had made, said in the radio broadcast Monday that he had “a recommendation for Miss Sylvester and her lips and my back end.”

The loss of Seliger’s commitee post is the latest turn in an increasingly tumultuous relationship between Patrick and Seliger, the second longest-serving Republican in the Texas Senate. Seliger was a key roadblock against Patrick’s push for private school vouchers in Texas and later refused to endorse Patrick for re-election.

Last week, Patrick announced new committee assignments for the Senate which included removing Seliger from the Senate Higher Education Committee — which Seliger chaired last session — and taking him off the influential Senate Finance Committee. Patrick made Seliger chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Seliger said he believes the moves were intended as a slight, and were payback for him not supporting every one of Patrick’s priorities, including the school voucher legislation.

“This is a warning to other Republicans, that if you stray from the lieutenant governor’s agenda, there will be a price to pay,” Seliger told talk show host Jay Leeson in the radio interview on KRFE-AM 580 in Lubbock.

Sylvester had told the Texas Tribune days earlier that if Seliger did not want to be chairman of the Agriculture Committee, they would find someone else to lead it.

“If Senator Seliger believes serving as Chair of the Agriculture Committee, a critical committee for West Texas and all of rural Texas, is beneath him, he should let us know and the Lt. Governor will appoint someone else,” said Sylvester, a former San Antonio Express-News reporter who was a spokeswoman for a lawsuit reform group and for a pro-private school group before joining Patrick’s staff in 2016.

Leeson asked Seliger about the “snide” comments.

“It was extremely snide and really unbecoming for a member of the staff, the lieutenant governor’s or my staff,” Seliger said. “I didn’t say anything of the sort, and that assertion is disingenuous and I have a recommendation for Miss Sylvester and her lips and my back end. That’s cleaned up, isn’t it?”

Patrick, a former conservative radio talk show host before he ran for office, said in his statement that Seliger refused to take responsibility for his remarks “and outrageously, blamed the staffer and said she should be fired. To not be willing to apologize and suggest, somehow, that she had it coming is unimaginable.”

Also Tuesday, Patrick physically blocked a door to keep Seliger out of a meeting that Senate Republicans held at the Texas Capitol. When Seliger reached for the door, Patrick held it shut and refused to let Seliger in.

“I didn’t invite you to this meeting,” Patrick said as he pulled the door closed.

jeremy.wallace@chron.com

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