One of the top Hispanic Republicans in the nation says he cannot support U.S. Sen. John Cornyn in the next election because of the position Texas' junior senator has taken on immigration reform.
Houston businessman Massey Villarreal told the Guardian he would instead back Democrat Rick Noriega, a state representative from Houston. Noriega is exploring a campaign for the U.S. Senate.
"I have decided to support Rick Noriega for U.S. Senate as a Democrat. I just don't think John Cornyn hears my community," Villarreal said.
"I know he (Cornyn) supports some issues that affect my community but immigration reform is one of the defining positions in my community. I have got to support what is good for my community. At the end of the day, regardless of party, we have to come home to our community, where we grew up in the grassroots."
Named one of the 100 most influential Hispanics in the United States by Hispanic Business Magazine in 2002, Villarreal served as chairman of the board of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly for four terms.
In 2000, Massey was named national Hispanic vice-chairman of the Bush/Cheney for President Campaign and deputy vice-chairman of the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia in 2000. He also served on the national steering committee for the Viva Bush Campaign.
Villarreal has been given state appointments, with then-Gov. George W. Bush naming him to the Texas State University System board and Gov. Rick Perry asking him to head up the Texas Department of Economic Development.
"I am still a strong Republican. I am on Mitt Romney's national steering committee. I am a believer and a supporter of Senator (Kay Bailey) Hutchison," Villarreal said. "I'm now a Rick Noriega Republican."
Villarreal said he had conveyed his views on the need for comprehensive immigration reform to Cornyn. He said he was not happy with the position Cornyn decided to take during the recent Senate negotiations.
"I have told Senator Cornyn I am disappointed because what his words are, and what his actions on the Senate floor are, are two different things," Villarreal said.
"It's disappointing he voted for those amendments. Those amendments were mean-spirited in nature. I believe he is appealing to the base and I'm sorry, the base will have to come out strong to re-elect him because the Latino community won't be there for him."
Asked to elaborate on the "mean-spiritedness" remark, Villarreal said he objected to the way Cornyn and other Republicans tossed the word 'amnesty' around.
"With the word amnesty, they paint the Latino community. It's a nasty word. Every time I saw a picture of John Cornyn speaking with Lou Dobbs or any of those talking heads, they show a picture of Mexicans jumping over the fence," Villarreal said.
"You know what? The only reason they have to jump the fence is because he (Cornyn) does not have the gall to have a program, or a process, or a legal system to have legal immigration."
Villarreal said he had little time for politicians who were more concerned about their political base than the future of the country.
"When the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the Texas Association of Business, and TAMACC, and all the business organizations say this (immigration reform) is good for America, we employ these people, we pay their taxes, and these politicians don't listen to them, there is something wrong," Villarreal said.
"They must be listening to some other people. It is not in the best interests of this country. We should remove those elected officials."
Villarreal said Noriega had great credentials to become a U.S. senator.
"He's been elected five times to the Texas Legislature. Rick has a high ranking in the National Guard. He has actually served in Afghanistan. He's still picking sand out of his bellybutton. He has the experience of being on the ground instead of a politician on this side who cannot even find Iraq on a map," Villarreal said.
Villarreal added that Noriega had made sure that Hispanic and minority-owned businesses "got a fair shake" at the Port of Houston, the City of Houston, and the state of Texas.
"He has leveled the playing fields for business. I can only support somebody who has got that kind of vision for a position like that," Villarreal said.
Asked if he could see himself forming a 'Republicans for Rick Noriega' group, Villarreal replied: "Done. I'm doing it." He said he had recruited a lot of people to the Noriega camp. "A lot of them, Republican Hispanic leaders, not just grassroots folks," he said.
If he does run for U.S. Senate, Noriega could face San Antonio attorney Mikal Watts in the Democratic primary. Asked who he would support if Noriega did not make it out of the primary, Villarreal said he was not sure.
"I am not sure if I will support the other nominee. But I still won't vote for Cornyn. I may just leave that box unchecked," he said.
Villarreal said Noriega stood a great chance in the primary, however.
"He's going to get all of South Texas. There are some mistakes to be learned from the Tony Sanchez campaign. That playbook has been read and scrutinized," Villarreal said.
If that article inspires you the way it did me, then please consider making a donation to Team Noriega. And as a reminder, you'll have the chance to chat with Rick Noriega tomorrow, August 11, from 1 to 3 PM Central time, over on Firedoglake, as Rick officially becomes a Blue America 08 PAC candidate. Come see why so many people are excited about Rick Noriega.Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 10, 2007 to Election 2008