Elections 2022State SenateOilman Kevin Sparks Emerges as Clear Frontrunner to Succeed Sen. Seliger in West Texas Seat

For the first time in almost two decades, the West Texas senate seat is open and a frontrunner has already emerged.
January 31, 2022
Conventional wisdom would suggest Midland oilman Kevin Sparks is the heir apparent to retiring Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) — likely to be the antithesis of the outgoing official.

It’s no surprise that Sparks’ locus is opposite Seliger’s, he was a primary challenger before the senator announced his retirement. Sparks launched his campaign in August, months before redistricting was even finalized.

Serendipitously, Sparks’ father, Don, ran against Seliger in 2004 during a special election for the open seat in which he finished third, missing the runoff.

“Senate District (SD) 31 deserve[s] a senator who will proudly defend our conservative values,” he said, alluding to Seliger’s consistent grade as the most liberal Republican three sessions in a row.

Seliger’s tenure in the senate had also been marked by a somewhat public feud with Lt. Governor Dan Patrick. Among the scuffles include a threatened filibuster of the 2019 property tax reform bill by Seliger during which Patrick countered with a threat to use the “nuclear option” and reduce the chamber’s supermajority threshold — which he did anyway in 2021.

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Seliger voted against the 2017 session’s version of the property tax reform bill and an education finance bill that included a school choice voucher provision.

More recently, the outgoing senator has accused Patrick of using redistricting to push him out — adding Midland to the district and removing a few of Seliger’s home-area panhandle counties. In a deposition for one of the redistricting lawsuits, Seliger also said a new term had been coined within the Senate GOP caucus — “Seligered” to mean when an individual loses committee chairmanships or other positions after voting against the lieutenant governor’s priorities.

Over a month after Sparks jumped into the race, Patrick told attendees at an oil and gas organization’s annual meeting that the senate needed a member with expertise on the state’s most prolific industry. 

Days later, Sparks received the most sought-after endorsement in GOP politics from former President Donald Trump.

Seliger announced his retirement on October 20, which was followed shortly by Patrick’s endorsement of Sparks.

The dominos all fell, one after the other, and the outgoing senator sees the lieutenant governor behind the first push.

Clearly, there is no love lost between Patrick and Seliger. But Sparks isn’t simply Patrick’s chosen replacement of Seliger — he will have his own chair on the floor of the senate.

“I’m not necessarily an issues-driven candidate,” Sparks said in an interview with Potter County GOP Chair Dan Rogers. “My one issue is to make our state stronger in the long term. I want our government to be innovative in how they’re approaching or addressing the issues that face the State of Texas so that down the road our kids have the same opportunities we do.”

He then went on to identify the border crisis as a premier obstacle the state is facing. “The resources and manpower that the State of Texas has currently deployed down [at the border] appears to be making a difference,” he added.

Since the July 2021 peak, Texas has seen border apprehensions decrease from its record highs last year. But they still remain higher than at any point in 2019 or 2020.

“But that’s coming at a great cost to the State of Texas,” he said.

Other issues Sparks touched on were reforming public schools to make them more responsive to parents; eliminating any Critical Race Theory themes in schools; decreasing reliance on China for goods, such as medical products; cutting state spending; fostering the continued growth of the oil and gas industry; allowing a bigger nuclear power footprint the state; and incentivizing more thermal generation as dispatchable units of power for the grid.

Sparks is a former board member of the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation and the Natural Gas Producers Association.

In addition to Trump and Patrick, Sparks has also been endorsed by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rep. August Pfluger (R-TX-11), and Chip Roy (R-TX-21).

At the January filing deadline, Sparks boasted over $900,000 in funds raised — far outpacing any of the other GOP primary candidates.

His three opponents are former FBI agent Tim Reid; Amarillo attorney Jesse Quackenbush; and Stormy Bradley, a Big Spring resident and owner of a steel company.


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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.