State senate candidates respond to questions
Pampa News interviews Seliger, Canon on issues important to Panhandle voters.Two former Texas mayors will face off March 4 in the Republican primary for Texas Senate District 31.The incumbent, Kel Seliger, 60, is a former mayor and city council member of Amarillo. He is a self-employed investor and has served as state senator since 2004. Challenger Mike Canon, 67, served as mayor and city council member of Midland. He is an attorney licensed to practice in Texas and New Mexico.The Pampa News interviewed each candidate recently. The first two questions were for Canon.Why did you decide to run?I had a number of people approach me and tell me they were not happy with the job the current senator is doing. They weren’t satisfied that he was adequately representing our district. I have a law practice and in doing my daily job I’d turn on TV but didn’t get a lot of information on state government. I started looking into it and decided I agreed with them (the people who had approached me). I am at a point in my life where I raised my family — married for 47 years — and was looking at what’s going on in the world and not wild about it. Instead of sitting in my living room every night, I decided to go out and do something about it. There are a lot of things that need to be done at the state level to keep Texas as a beacon of hope for America.You are running against a 10-year incumbent. What are the challenges to that?First of all, going against the incumbency is a challenge in itself. He has a substantially larger war chest. I spend a significant amount of time raising money. He has a 10-year history and I had to do a lot of educating about myself. We have a perceived north-south division or potential one, which I think is illusory. It’s not real and as I talk to people I don’t see it that way. North versus south is not the question. The incumbent would argue he has represented the south as well as the north (parts of the district) and the reverse can be true if I were in the same shoes.The following questions were asked of both candidates.How do you balance the needs of urban areas like Amarillo versus the vast rural areas in the district?Canon: I don’t think needs are much different. Whether you are talking about a small community or a large community, the community as a whole is trying to operate their government and community that is beneficial to all involved. Transportation, education, water and other issues generally relate to all communities. Some have unique issues but most communities have same issues. I have been in a number of small communities both in the Panhandle and the southern part of district. Small communities, as a rule, want to make sure they are not left out and ignored. Midland used to be a small community. There is a lot of fat and bureaucracy at central (state) level. Getting rid of that would make it a lot easier for our smaller communities.Seliger: I travel to every county in the district to do town hall meetings. I talk to the leadership and ask what I can do. I stay in contact with all 82 school superintendents on everything I do (on education) with input from those educators.The federal courts declaring state bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. How do you feel about Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage?Canon: Call me old fashioned but marriage is between a man and a lady. If two people of the same sex want to form some sort of a union they can call it what they want to, but it is not a marriage. But providing benefits to those people? I am not there yet. I believe a marriage is a family unit and I support legislation that supports those unions, not other unions. I do not want to open the door to legislation that provides benefits to other types of unions. Seliger: The law is the law and right now the state law is legal and constitutional. What are your views on medicinal marijuana?Canon: I’m not a doctor. So in terms of medical marijuana I would have to hear from doctors on its potential benefits. If it could be shown from a medical standpoint that it did I might do something favorable for it, but I haven’t seen any evidence that it should be approved for medicinal purposes. We already have enough legalized drugs and I an not in favor of any more.Seliger: This turns out to be not very medical. We don’t have medical professionals calling. They can prescribe drugs so it is less of a medical question than a legal question. They can already prescribe Marinol (an FDA-approved synthetic cannabinoid prescribed to cancer and AIDS patients). They don’t prescribe it very much. As far as recreational use I don’t think you are going to see movement of legalization in the 84th Legislature. Prosecutors and law enforcement are against it because it is a gateway drug for many things that are bad.The wind energy companies get lots of government subsidies and tax abatements. In Gray County there is a strong consensus that they should be on a even playing field with oil and gas, which do not get the same tax breaks.Canon: I am in favor of tax abatements for wind companies to some extent. It is really a local issue. If local government wants to grant tax abatements, that is their prerogative. We have to plan for a future day when we don’t have oil or gas, or not as much. I don’t know if I would have voted for tax incentives by the federal government. We have so much capital invested in wind energy that we have to let it happen, but I would like to see the federal government level the playing field between wind energy and oil and gas. It’s not fair to oil and gas companies.Seliger: The (federal) investment tax credits have gone away. The federal government will do what it will do. I am in favor of local control. It (wind energy) has to sustain itself on its own to be a viable business model. I voted for the renewable portfolio in the state of Texas and believe it is very good for the Panhandle and the state of Texas.Do you support a plan that would maintain habitat for the lesser prairie chicken that does not include listing it as a threatened species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service?Canon: I am adamantly opposed to placing the prairie chicken on the endangered species list. If that means establishing a state plan, then that’s what we need to do. It is unfortunate that we give animals the rights we don’t give unborn children.Seliger: There still is a hunting season for the prairie chicken in Kansas. I am in favor of five states (with prairie chicken habitat) having their own plans. Gas and oil producers and farmers don’t want to see the extinction of any species.Texas is the state with most uninsured citizens. How would you reform health care? Would you expand Medicare? Canon: I would definitely be in favor of getting rid of Obamacare. The state needs to address health care on its own. Some of the plans offered at the national level by Senator Coburn (of Oklahoma) were not even considered. Clearly we have a problem and it is multifaceted. In terms of the state, I think we have got to work toward having more of the private sector involved, whether it be hospitals or physicians or community efforts to address those who cannot afford adequate health care. The ultimate goal would be for the community to help itself and take care of its own. Community involvement with state assistance, but over time state assistance would lessen to ease the burden on the state to get health care costs under control.Seliger: Covering more people who can’t afford health care is good because now they are all showing up at emergency rooms. We should set up as a block grant and let state of Texas decide. I am in favor of repealing Obamacare.Why are you the best candidate?Canon:If you look at my public voting record and if you look at the things Kel proposed he really doesn’t have the interest of the district front and center; he is going through motions as senator. Our district needs an advocate, somebody who is able to articulate the issues on behalf of the district, to work toward reasonable resolutions and to fight if they need to on behalf of the district.Selinger: Because of the way I have done the job and have represented the 37 counties (in the district) to maximize local control. I cut the budget in Amarillo as mayor and returned money to taxpayers every year. I am conservative and effective.