Voucher opponent finds justification in election
One of the biggest opponents of private school vouchers in the Texas Senate says the Nov. 6 election results show voters agree with him.
State Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, said a key lesson from the midterms for Republicans should be to listen better to the people in their districts. He reminded the audience at a legislative preview forum in Austin that he was one of only two Republicans to vote against private school voucher legislation in the Texas Senate in 2017, and yet was easily re-elected.
“I got 88 percent voter feedback,” Seliger said, referring to his margin of victory — the highest of any Republican elected to the State Senate this year.
Seliger in 2017 voted against a school voucher plan that would have allowed public school funding to be used to pay for children to attend private schools, a top priority of Senate Republican leaders in 2017.
That vote has not been without consequence for Seliger. Two Republicans opposed him in the primaries, but he defeated both handily in March. In November he easily defeated Libertarian Jack Westbrook. He had no Democratic opposition.
Seliger said when he meets new members of the Legislature, he warns them to stay focused on their districts no matter the pressure they may feel around the Texas Capitol.
“What I tell them is first and foremost represent your district,” he said. “No matter what you are told by other people here or third-party groups, listen to the people in your districts.”
Two Republican incumbents in the Senate lost their re-elections in November, dropping the number of Republicans in the Senate from 21 to 19. They still outnumber Democrats 19 to 12.
Seliger said he hopes the election results and the narrowing margin in the Senate will “maybe, just maybe” require more bipartisanship and cooperation overall.
Seliger’s comments came during a legislative preview forum hosted by The Texas Tribune on the University of Texas-Austin campus. The Legislature begins its next session on Jan. 8.
State Sen. Kirk Watson, an Austin Democrat who shared the stage with Seliger at the forum, also said he hopes the 2018 election results “put us in a less partisan mood and more of a problem-solving mood on the big issues.”
Seliger, first elected in 2004, will enter the 2019 special session as the second-longest serving Republican in the Senate.