There is a conspiracy brewing in West Texas.
Then again — maybe not. It depends who you ask.
If you ask state Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, there is a conspiracy.
“It is an absolute fact,” Seliger said.
If you ask Victor Leal, it is “absurd,” “crazy” and “insulting” to even suggest such a thing.
The conspiracy (if there is one) goes something like this: Leal, a well-known Amarillo restaurant owner and former candidate for state House, is only running for state Senate to siphon votes in these parts from Seliger, the incumbent, in a three-candidate race in the March 6 GOP primary.
You see, there is another candidate running for the District 31 seat, Mike Canon of Midland. Seliger beat Canon in the 2014 GOP primary for this seat, but it was close, 52 percent to 47 percent — give or take a few decimals.
The plan goes something like this: If Leal can get some of the votes that Seliger would have got in the Amarillo-area, there is a good chance that would put Canon over the top, or at least force a May 22 runoff. (Incumbents generally do not like runoffs.)
So, in other words, Leal is not really interested in winning. He just needs to pull a few votes from Seliger. And since there is no Democrat running, this primary is more or less winner-take-all.
Whenever I hear conspiracy theories (and believe me, I hear more than my share), I ask — why? And what is the payoff for the person participating in this conspiracy?
Why has to do with Seliger’s reputation — deserved or not — as not being enough of a conservative.
It is no secret that Seliger does not see eye-to-eye with the lieutenant governor. And, according to Seliger, there are organizations such as Texas Public Policy Foundation (which is conservative) that want him out of the Legislature.
Here is the tricky part. If this conspiracy exists, what is in it for Leal? Why go to all the trouble of running a campaign if you are not in it to win it? You got me.
Even Seliger admits he doesn’t know.
“What gets me is that Victor is no dummy, and his consultant is no dummy,” Seliger said. “They can’t be telling Victor he is going to get in a runoff because he is not. He can’t get me into a runoff.
“Where is the payoff for him? That is what I don’t understand.”
Leal bristles at the idea that he is pulling some sort of political shenanigans.
“I will ridicule that claim,” Leal said. “I wish people would come to me … and give me that claim to my face. It is the most absurd thing I have ever heard.
“What they are saying — essentially — is “Oh, he is lying. He is going around everywhere saying he wants to be state senator. He really doesn’t want to be a senator. He just doesn’t want Kel Seliger to be a senator.’ That is the most outrageous, absurd thing I have ever heard, and it is insulting, to be honest with you.”
Seliger says it is all about control.
“This election is about something different than any election before,” Seliger said. “It is not just a question of ideology — let’s elect conservatives because we have a conservative agenda. It is now — let’s elect people we can control.
Leal says he is running to win — pure and simple.
“I am traveling thousands of miles, working 18-hour days, putting my own hard-earned money into this campaign to win,” Leal said. “I am the best candidate — hands down. I am not some outsider who decided to toss his hat into the ring just to throw a monkey wrench into it.
“Kel Seliger needs to be gone, and I am a much better candidate than Mike Canon. I am running to be state senator.”
So is there some sort of political conspiracy in the Golden Spread? I tend to doubt it. I think Leal is running a legitimate campaign and wants to win. And I go back to the question of what is in it for Leal if his only goal is to keep Seliger from winning? I have no idea.
Here is the real problem, though — there is no reason for the Amarillo and Midland areas to be in the same legislative district anyway, but I digress.
AGN Media Director of Commentary Dave Henry can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.