Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) announced he would not seek re-election in a reconfigured SD31.

“After thoughtful consideration and with the reassurance of my family, including my new very vocal granddaughter, I have decided not to be a candidate for re-election to the Texas Senate,” Seliger said in a statement. “It has been a great honor to represent the people, schools and businesses of Senate District 31 for the past 17 years.”

As it was redrawn, SD31 lost four Panhandle counties and gained 12 Permian Basin counties, resulting in an almost perfect balance between the Panhandle (48.6% of the 2020 Republican primary vote) and the Permian Basin (49.2%). As the district is currently configured, the Panhandle contributed 57.5% of the vote while the Permian Basin accounted for 40%. Three remaining 2% of the vote comes from three South Plains “connector” counties along the western edge of the state. Seliger was the lone Republican to vote against the new map, and this was not the only time he voted against the party.

He was already facing two primary challengers: Big Spring steel manufacturer and Coahoma ISD trustee Stormy Bradley and Midland oil and gas executive and former Texas Public Policy Foundation board member Kevin Sparks.

In addition to gaining a stronger playing field, Sparks also gained President Trump’s endorsement and the backing of several significant conservative donors including Ernest Angelo, Tim Dunn, Dick Saulsbury and Kyle Stallings. Both of Seliger’s 2018 primary opponents – former Midland Mayor Mike Canon and Amarillo restaurateur Victor Leal – were on the host committee for Sparks’s kickoff event in Midland. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) last month said the Senate needs an oil and gas expert. “We really don’t really have any oil men or women,” Patrick reportedly told the Permian Basin Petroleum Assoc.. Seliger was in the steel industry.

Seliger won a 2004 special runoff election over Odessa oil and gas businessman Kirk Edwards, 56%-44%, and went on to win a full term in the 2004 general election. The former Amarillo mayor was re-elected four times, but saw diminishing support in contested Republican primaries in 2012 (76%), 2014 (53%) and 2018 (50.4%). Facing a bruising 2022 primary and potentially a runoff, Seliger instead opted to retire.

He is the third incumbent Senator to announce plans to leave the chamber. Sen. Dawn Buckingham (R-Lakeway) is running for Land Commissioner, and Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) is retiring.

“From my first campaign in 1989 to today, I have felt overwhelmingly proud to serve the Panhandle, South Plains and the Permian Basin,” he said.

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