In writing about Mikal Watts' recent appearance before the University Democrats, Paul Burka opined that "The Democratic primary may well come down to a Houston/Dallas versus San Antonio/Valley fight for the Hispanic vote." If that's true, then I'd say Rick Noriega just scored a touchdown with this.
The three-member Cameron County legislative delegation and numerous local elected officials have announced their support of Rick Noriega for U.S. Senate.
The endorsements came at a campaign fundraiser at Valley International Country Club and contrast sharply with what has been happening in neighboring Hidalgo County - where Noriega's possible Democratic primary opponent, Mikal Watts, has been picking up the support of some of its political leaders.
Both Noriega, a state representative from Houston, and Watts, a San Antonio-based trial lawyer, are exploring the possibility of running against U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, next year.
"I have known Rick Noriega for about 25 years," said state Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville, introducing his House colleague to those at the fundraiser. "He's about as solid a human being, as solid a husband, as solid a father, as solid a leader as you could possibly be."
Among Cameron County officials, Noriega picked up the support of District Attorney Armando Villalobos, County Clerk Joe G. Rivera, District Clerk Aurora De La Garza, County Treasurer David A. Betancourt, and Sheriff Omar Lucio.
Brownsville City Commissioners Carlos A. Cisneros and Leo Garza were also present at the fundraiser to give their backing to Noriega.
And, in addition to Oliveira, state Reps. Juan Escobar, D-Kingsville, and Eddie Lucio III, D-San Benito, gave glowing reports on Noriega's work in the legislature.
Asked why Watts seems to be doing well in Hidalgo County and Noriega is doing well in Cameron County, Oliveira said the Houston representative started his campaign a little later. If he had started earlier, Oliveira said, Noriega would have picked up a lot of the early endorsements in Hidalgo County.
"I think one of the things we did here early is have a lot of private meetings with key elected officials and when Rick goes one on one with people and shares his story, it is so impressive," Oliveira said.
"I'm excited because here we have got a decorated colonel who has served in Afghanistan, a legislative veteran and a charismatic person with a Houston base who can wrap that flag around himself and run for the United States Senate and win. I know the man. I trust him."
Oliveira will be one of Noriega's key campaigners in the Valley. He said Watts was a friend and he thought highly of him. However, he said it was important to support a qualified Hispanic candidate who had a great chance of winning in the general election.
"I'm concerned that a pro-life trial lawyer is going to have a hard time winning," Oliveira said, referring to Watts. He said that in Noriega, Texans could vote for a decorated colonel in the National Guard, who had served in Afghanistan and spent 12 years in House learning about education and roads.
"We've got a guy who can walk into the United States Senate and probably teach them a thing or two and not somebody who needs to go up there on training wheels; who has no sense of public service."