"Looking at the field, you have to say Melissa Noriega is the front-runner," said Joe Householder, who works for the Austin-based political consulting firm Public Strategies Inc., and has clients in Houston politics.
"She has been campaigning for a seat for a while, she has the most extensive political network and she can tap the network her husband has in place. She has the leg up."
Noriega was endorsed by the Harris County AFL-CIO Council last week. She also is supported by several Democratic elected officials, including City Council members Carol Alvarado, Adrian Garcia and Sue Lovell, and state representatives Alma Allen, Garnet Coleman, Jessica Farrar, Ana Hernandez, Borris Miles and Senfronia Thompson.
As such, this is the kind of race where endorsements will matter, because what they will serve to do is to remind people that they need to get out and vote in the first place. One group that will be issuing its endorsement later today is the Houston GLBT Political Caucus. They have a tough choice, but the good kind of tough choice.
For the first time in caucus history, two openly gay men, Noel Freeman and Ivan Mayers, are seeking the caucus's support. Melissa Noriega and Andy Neill also screened with the caucus. Everyone on the screening committee agrees that the caucus has a very difficult decision to make, but this is a difficult decision we're happy to have; it's one we've been waiting for.
Our organization has been committed to recruiting openly GLBT candidates for a long time, so we can't help but be extremely proud of Noel Freeman and Ivan Mayers. Both men have distinguished themselves by being courageously honest within discriminatory cultures. Noel Freeman was the first openly gay member of Texas A&M's Corps of Cadets. Ivan Mayers worked for many years as an executive at Exxon Mobile.
Though we are extremely excited about the candidacy of these two gay men, it should not be assumed that the caucus will endorse either of them, simply because they are homosexuals. As an interim state legislator, civic activist and educator, Melissa Noriega has proven herself to be an extremely effective leader. During her interview, Noriega was passionate about building coalitions. She's obviously eager to learn about GLBT issues, and, in many ways, She's uniquely qualified to help our community reach out to the greater population of Houston.
We certainly face a difficult decision. We have a historic opportunity, not just because we have two homosexuals seeking our endorsement. Our city is at the threshold of significant progress, and every city election has the potential to bring us closer to equal citizenship.
The GLBT political caucus is not a mere fan club for elected officials. We don't vainly seek election victories. We are compelled to by specific policy goals. We are driven by the prospect of equality. Of course we want more GLBT elected officials, but, even more than that, we want nondiscrimination mandated by our government. We want marriage equality, with recognition and security for our loving families. We want equal rights, and the Caucus will endorse and work for the candidate that can best accelerate the realization of these goals.