High Plains Legislative Mavericks: Tim Huelskamp & Kel Seliger
Whether you agree with them or not, two High Plains legislators stand for what they believe-- even when they’re standing alone. They are: Representative Tim Huelskamp, R-Kansas, 1st District, and Texas State Senator Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, State Senate District 31.
Tim Huelskamp, represents the “Big First,” an area that spans parts of eastern Kansas to the Colorado border.
The Wichita Eagle reported tea-party backed Huelskamp:
- Introduced legislation banning same-sex marriage
- Repeatedly voted against the farm bill
- Wants to defund the Affordable Care Act, even if it means shutting down government
- Tried to thwart the re-election of John Boehner in January
- Voted against raising the debt ceiling
- With five other legislators threatened to join Democratic opposition to the floor vote of the defense appropriations bill in order to press an amendment vote to limit the amount of data the National Security Agency could collect.
Huelskamp was removed from the Budget and Agriculture committees by Republican leadership. He says loss of that position bolstered his position. The Fowler congressman wears the ordeal as a symbol of being an uncompromising Washington outsider. “When Washington has a 9 percent approval rating,” Huelskamp said this month, “I'll be happy to stick on the side of the 91 percent.”
Huelskamp is back in the Sunflower state holding a series of town hall meetings. He told the McClatchy Washington Bureau he turned down an offer last month, during the farm bill debate, to restore his seat on the Agriculture Committee in return for his vote. That “might be the way the game’s played up here,” Huelskamp said, “but that outrages people at home.”
Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, represents the second largest rural district in the Texas Senate. State Senate District 31 stretches over 37 counties from the Panhandle to the Permian Basin. Seliger is not afraid to stand for what he feels is right… even if he stands alone.
Seliger was the only legislator from the Panhandle/South Plains delegation to vote against House Bill 1, the transportation bill. The bill was an agenda item three times during the special sessions before passing.
Seliger says his “nay” vote expresses his latest frustration in an attempt to be an advocate for rural issues in a Legislature where urban and suburban members are the overwhelming majority according to the Amarillo Globe-News.
The transportation bill included an amendment on port funding Seliger opposed. “I talked to the mayor of Dalhart the other day, and they have a railroad underpass that has been there since the ’30s or ’40s with a clearance of 13 feet, 7 inches, which is too low for modern-day freight,” Seliger told his colleagues. “It has been on the list of TxDOT (Texas Department of Transportation) for a number of years, but they get no firm answers from TxDOT.” “I understand that it costs a lot more for a mile of highway on the I-35 corridor than it does in West Texas,” he said. “But what I see is that West Texas and rural Texas are standing in line behind the I-35 corridor and now moving behind the line again for ports.”
Reps. Ken King, R-Canadian, and Drew Springer, R-Muenster, say they are satisfied with the way rural issued faired this session. Senator Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, represents the largest rural district. He said, “I think rural Texas has always been treated fairly in the Legislature.”