“Every vote counts” can often sound like a cliché, but the nail-biting, three-way race for West Texas’s Senate District 31 proved otherwise.
With 80,636 total votes cast in the Republican primary race, about 340 votes made the difference between a single-candidate victory and a run-off between incumbent State Sen. Kel Seliger and former Midland mayor Mike Canon. Seliger, who received 40,653 votes, won by just 50.41 percent. Canon and Amarillo restaurateur Victor Leal received 31.39 and 18.2 percent, respectively.
Yet while the difference in votes may have come down to just a few hundred, the candidates’ campaign expenditures were vastly different. According to transparencytexas.org, Seliger spent $1.8 million in an effort to extend his 14-year tenure in office. Canon, on the other hand, spent $440,000; Leal spent $379,000. This isn’t the first time Seliger has come close to losing his seat, which is likely what led him to outspend his opponents by over 400 percent.
In a face-off with Canon in 2014, Seliger won by a close 52.5 percent, despite his opponent entering the race relatively late. The breakdown of votes in 2014 closely mirrors the results of this election: a majority of Seliger’s votes came from his home town of Amarillo, in Potter and Randall counties. Canon, on the other hand, heavily carried Ector and Midland counties. SD 31 stretches from Odessa and Midland in the West to Amarillo in the North, excluding Lubbock.
The race for SD 31 was arguably one of the most contentious state senate races this election cycle. Despite representing one of the most conservative districts in the state, Seliger was the only Republican senator to oppose property tax reform as well as transparency measures relating to tax-funded lobbying – two issues championed by Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Those two votes, along with many others, positioned him as the most liberal Republican in the senate, according to ratings by numerous conservative organizations as well as Rice University.
With property tax reform and additional government transparency measures slated for a comeback in 2019, it’s likely Seliger’s failing rating will be repeated.
Seliger is unopposed in the November general election.