December 03, 2007
Noriega kicks it off

Exploring no more, Rick Noriega is now officially a candidate for Senate.

State Rep. Rick Noriega, of Houston, officially filed today as a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate. Noriega called the war in Iraq an occupation and assailed incumbent U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of pandering on immigration.

"America wins wars. We are in an occupation of a country," Noriega said of Iraq.

Noriega said the nation needs to refocus the war on terror on fighting al-Qaida in Afghanistan and set a timetable for getting out of Iraq. He said Iraq needs a political solution, not a military one, but said the pullout should be done in a way to maintain security for U.S. troops.

Noriega also said Cornyn, a Republican, has been an obstructionist on getting meaningful immigration reform and border security passed in the U.S. Senate.

"It's unfortunate that he had to pander to extreme ideological group on this issue," Noriega said. "We have people who want to be obstructionist and use this as a wedge."

Noriega said comprehensive immigration reform is necessary to secure the border while still providing workers for American businesses.

I can't tell you how excited I am about Noriega's candidacy. I mean, you've probably figured most of it out by now, based on everything I've written so far. But still. I'm jazzed about this.

Click on for the campaign's press release, and a draft copy of Noriega's remarks. I'm expecting some video tomorrow.

Press release:

State Representative Rick Noriega officially became a candidate for the United States Senate today, the first day of filing for the 2008 election, answering the call to serve from a network of Democratic Texas grassroots community leaders.

"Leaders in Washington are out of touch with the fundamental values of regular Texans," said Noriega, a five-term state legislator and Lieutenant Colonel in the Texas National Guard. "This is a mission to reclaim our United States Senate seat. This is a mission to restore true Texas values. This is a mission on behalf of millions of regular Texans who are ready to reclaim America's global standing, Texas' true values, and the voice in Washington that belongs not to the politicians, but to the people."

This morning, after a kick-off breakfast in his hometown of Houston, Noriega flew to Austin to file his candidacy papers with Texas Democratic Party Chair Boyd Richie.

Noriega, who served a 14-month tour of duty in Afghanistan, supports ending the war in Iraq and setting firm timetables for withdrawing troops. Noriega also outlined the need to provide veterans and their families with better medical care, and to help hard-working Texans afford health insurance, college and housing.

Noriega and his wife Melissa, a Houston City councilwoman, have two sons. Prior to his service in the state legislature and the Texas National Guard, Noriega taught in the Houston Independent School District and Houston Community College System and managed economic development for CenterPoint Energy.

Texas has never elected a Houston resident to the U.S. Senate. Several Senators from Texas were born in Houston, but lived elsewhere at the time of their election, and one Houstonian was appointed but served less than one month.

Prepared remarks:

Good morning. Today marks the last day of our Exploratory Campaign for the United States Senate and the first of my official candidacy to unseat Republican John Cornyn. It's time all Texans had representation in the United States Senate. It's time to put an end to the politics of division. It's now time to work together to get our country back on track.

We are wasting no time. Today is the first day of the candidate filing period, and I have in hand the official forms, completed and signed, along with the candidate filing fee to offer myself for service as a Democratic candidate to be the next United States Senator to serve the Great State of Texas.

After a grueling legislative session, Melissa and I had long talks about the state of politics in Texas. Our concern is one shared by Texans across our state, we're frustrated with political leadership that is out-of-touch with the fundamental values of regular Texans. Texans want to invest in education, protect the health of children, and respect the privacy of law-abiding citizens.

We have long been involved at the grassroots level. But it had become increasingly clear that the politics of arrogance that puts special interests ahead of the public interest was coming from higher up the ladder. It was time to challenge the politics of Karl Rove. Their game plan has been to divide. Our mission must be to unite.

So in mid-June, in the heat of the summer, we launched our Exploratory campaign for the United States Senate. We traveled from Houston to Austin, Uvalde to Amarillo, Dallas to El Paso. We listened to people's hopes, dreams and concerns. We shared ideas on how we can bring an end to the War in Iraq and address the issues our families face here at home. And I challenged Texans from all walks of life to join me in answering the call. We launched our campaign at the foot of the Heroes of the Alamo statue. And everywhere we've traveled, Texans stepped up, crossed the line in the sand, and answered the call.

When you take the time to break bread with Texans, you see a very different picture than what is portrayed in the media. The media looks at John Cornyn's bank account, but voters look at their own - weighing the needs of saving for a college education for their children, while hopefully not letting go of their dreams for retirement. The media believes it's all about TV and negative attacks, but voters have become increasingly sophisticated. They don't believe everything they hear, and for good reason. And when it comes to joining hands with others to get our state and country back on track, they're willing and ready to get to work.

For Melissa and I, public service has always been a calling. I heard and answered the call as a young man, seeing the news as hundreds of Americans were taken hostage in our nation's Embassy in Iran. I've continued to answer the call in the National Guard, serving a tour of duty in Afghanistan alongside some everyday American heroes. I answered the call, as thousands of Texans did, doing my part to provide shelter and hope to families fleeing the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Texans understand the difference between self-service and public service. Unfortunately, it's a lesson lost on the junior Senator from Texas. Today, we have the opportunity to correct course, and that's why I'm answering this next call to service to help get our country back on track.

We enter this campaign under no illusions. Few people today, if asked, recognize the name Rick Noriega. But when you go beyond the superficial questions, you'll find that millions share what our campaign stands for. This campaign is not about making my name a household name. It's not about a Democrat versus a Republican. It's not about two people, Rick Noriega versus John Cornyn. As we prepare to spend the next 11 months traveling this state, we plan to talk about who this campaign is really for. This campaign is for the moms, dads, and grandparents who are caring for the children of troops who have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan over and over again. It's for our veterans who have served our country, but return home and carry on without adequate medical care, or health insurance for their children. And it's for the countless Texas families who work hard, yet find that health insurance, and college, and housing remain just out of reach.

For them, we can no longer call this an Exploratory Campaign. This is a mission to reclaim our United States Senate seat. This is a mission to restore true Texas values. There will be those who sit back and judge from the sidelines. But week-by-week, month-by-month, they will be outnumbered by the regular Texans who are ready to reclaim America's global standing, Texas' true values, and the United States Senate seat that belongs not to the politicians, but to the people.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 03, 2007 to Election 2008

"I can't tell you how excited I am about Noriega's candidacy."

Yes, I think you can...and do...tell us how excited you are about any Noriega candidacy.

Posted by: Vernon Guy on December 3, 2007 9:07 PM