*This article has been updated
Amarillo Matters is weighing in on two local legislators' records on abortion issues, saying that the issues are "just propaganda."
This week, news began circulating on social media that Senator Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) donated to a Friends of Planned Parenthood event in 2000. According to clippings from the Amarillo Globe-News, Seliger donated to the event and was listed as a "host" for the event. Rumors have also surfaced that Seliger's wife, Nancy, was once a member of the Friends of Planned Parenthood board in Amarillo.
Steve Pair, executive director for Amarillo Matters, told the Amarillo Pioneer that the Seliger issue is "just another attempt to blemish his record."
"What I will say to that is that story is 17 years old," Pair said. "It's just another attempt by his opponents and these downstate political action committees to try and blemish his record."
On another issue dealing with the topic of abortion, Representative Four Price (R-Amarillo) voted with Democratic legislators in the Texas House to kill an amendment by Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler) that would have closed a loophole in Texas law, allowing late-term abortions based on disability. Price later said that he meant to vote to save the amendment.
Pair said that Price's vote does not mean that the Representative is pro-choice and is an attempt by Empower Texans to buy Amarillo's elections.
"I would argue that that does not tell the full story because read it and you will see that they are trying to influence our elections," Pair said. "I have seen a paid ad about this from Empower Texans in my Facebook feed. It's a dying issue and that's who we support."
According to records from Empower Texans' website, EmpowerTexans.com, the group has not run any articles, audio broadcasts or any other similar materials regarding Price's vote on Schaefer's amendment.
Price's primary opponent, Fritch city manager Drew Brassfield, responded to Pair's statement on the issue of Price's vote saying that Representative Price's vote on Senate Bill 8's Amendment 22 (Schaefer Amendment) is important to the legislative session.
"Well it is a dying issue because people are dying," Brassfield said. "My stance on it is that I am going to defend the person regardless of how sick they are. It's not the government's job to come in and say 'you have to die.'"
On the full topic of votes and actions suggesting that Senator Seliger and Representative Price are pro-choice, Pair said that the duo's opinions on abortion have been twisted by political action committees and did factor in to Amarillo Matters support.
"We consider Seliger and Price to be pro-life," Pair said. "We were familiar with the propaganda and it doesn't represent or tell the entire picture."
The topic of abortion has become a heated issue in this year's Republican primary race. Stories of Seliger's support of Planned Parenthood resurfaced this week. According to newspaper clippings, when the issue first arose when then-Mayor Seliger was running for his first term in the Texas Senate, Seliger said that he was unaware that he was donating to Planned Parenthood.
"I have no record of it personally," Seliger told the Amarillo Globe-News. "If it was from my business, I don't know. My brother also supports things, and he knew that we were supporting Kids in the Know."
Craig Murphy, a consultant working for Senator Seliger responded to the story by saying that Seliger is endorsed by Texas Life PAC and continues to dispute the donation to Friends of Planned Parenthood.
"He still disputes it," Murphy said.
One of Seliger's opponents, Victor Leal, said that due to Seliger's record, the revelation of Seliger's support of the Planned Parenthood event should not come as a surprise to voters.
"He voted against defunding Planned Parenthood and his supporting of Planned Parenthood events doesn't surprise me because he sided with Democrats on these issues," Leal said. "He also voted to give 16-year-old girls access to contraceptives without their parents' knowledge and that's something I'm against."
According to legislative archives, Seliger worked against a budget rider that would have retricted funding to Planned Parenthood in 2009. Seliger told the Amarillo Globe-News on that rider that if it had passed it would have negatively impacted women in the Texas Panhandle.
Leal also expressed his view that the topic of abortion should be on the minds of voters when the primary election is held on March 6th.
"To me it's one of the most important issues because our Founding Fathers build this nation on the protection of life, liberty and property," Leal said. "If you can't defend life, then you'll get all the other issues wrong too."
Seliger is running against Leal and former Midland mayor Mike Canon in the District 31 Republican primary race. Price and Brassfield will also square off in the 87th district's Republican race on March 6th.