Candidates in the District 31 Texas Senate race, two of whom are backed by Texas Right to Life, had mixed reactions to the dispute between Texas Right to Life and the Catholic bishops who have severed ties with the organization.
The Austin American-Statesman recently reported that according to a written directive, Texas Right to Life has “engaged in misleading attacks against political candidates, lied about the Catholic Church’s position on legislation at the state Capitol and opposed church-supported bills by arguing that they don’t go far enough to limit abortions.”
Those running for the District 31 spot are incumbent Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, and challengers Mike Canon, R-Midland, and Victor Leal, R-Amarillo. The primary is Tuesday and early voting ends Friday.
Texas Right to Life has endorsed Canon and Leal.
“I’m a pro-life Catholic who’s deeply committed to my faith. However, I question the timing of the bishops on this statement. I’m also leery when bishops wade into the political arena. It was the bishops who cooperated with the Obama administration that got us the disaster that is Obamacare,” Leal said.
The Texas Right to Life PAC general purpose committee campaign finance support lists Seliger as a candidate it opposes, although he was endorsed by Texas Alliance for Life and Life PAC.
“Texas Right to Life gave me a 100 percent rating and they still are contributing money against me and attacking me. It does seem there is something wrong with this picture. You would have to look at their donors to see if there are any extraordinarily large contributors who might persuade them to attack someone who is 100 percent pro-life, even by their own rating system. Nobody is more definitively pro-life than the Catholic bishops. When a group presumes they are somehow more authoritative, there must be another agenda,” Seliger said.
Michael Sis, bishop of the Diocese of San Angelo said Wednesday that a notice sent to “our priests and our parishes. It was an internal message. It was not a press release.”
“I don’t want to give the impression that the church is endorsing one candidate or another, or attempting to sway an election, because that is not our role. There are many pro-life candidates in our state, both incumbents and challengers. The Catholic bishops of Texas seek to collaborate and find common ground with all pro-life organizations and there’s a need for greater unity in the movement,” Sis said.
“It’s my hope that all pro-life organizations will work together in the future. We’re in a long-term effort to build a culture of life,” he added.
Leal said he is honored by the endorsement and support of Texas Right to Life.
“And I look forward to defending life from conception to natural death when I’m in the senate,” he said.
Leal said Texas Right to Life has contributed to his campaign and endorsed him, but he has not received any endorsement or financial backing from Empower Texans PAC (political action committee) or the Texas Home School Coalition PAC.
The Teach the Vote website from the Association of Texas Professional Educators contend that Texas Right to Life, Empower Texans and the Texas Home School Coalition get contributions from many of the same people.
Texas Ethics Commission campaign finance reports for Jan. 26 through Feb. 24 show that Texas Right to Life contributed $20,000 each to Leal and Canon.
Empower Texans backs Canon and Texas Home School Coalition has endorsed Canon, their websites stated. Canon has total political contributions of $458,035. Of that, Empower Texans has contributed $349,780, the campaign finance report shows.
Canon also received $3,000 from Texas Home School Coalition PAC.
The Texas Ethics Commission website says “unless you are contributing to a judge, judicial candidate, or specific-purpose political committee supporting or opposing a judge or judicial candidate, there are no contribution limits under state law.”
Canon said he does not know what precipitated the bishops’ decision, so it’s difficult to comment on it.
“I do believe both the bishops and Texas Right to Life want to do good things, both working for the cause for life. I hope that the two organizations would be able to reconcile their differences and work in a unified pro-life effort,” Canon said.
Joint Primary Election March 6, 2018
- First day of early voting: Feb. 20.
- Last day of early voting: March 2.
- Election Day: March 6.