February 15, 2008
Endorsement watch: DMN endorses Noriega

The Dallas Morning News makes the clear choice in the Democratic primary for US Senate.

Rick Noriega, a five-term state representative from Houston, wins our nod in the Democratic Senate primary. Mr. Noriega's legislative experience, military background and academic training easily make him the best candidate in the four-man Democratic field.


Mr. Noriega has served in the Texas House since 1999 and knows how laws get made. Holding a Harvard master's degree in public administration is no hindrance, either.

This newspaper named Houston its 2005 Texan of the Year for the city's effective response to the Hurricane Katrina evacuee crisis. As Mayor Bill White's point man running the convention center shelter, Mr. Noriega deserves much of the credit.

He touts his military background, an impressive record of service. Mr. Noriega is a lieutenant colonel in the Texas Army National Guard, in which he's served for 28 years. In 2005, he completed a 14-month deployment to Afghanistan, which has made him a well-informed critic of U.S. policy there and strengthened his advocacy for veterans.

Having commanded Guard soldiers deployed to the Texas-Mexico border in 2006, Mr. Noriega intimately knows the difficulties of securing that area, which is partly why he backs comprehensive immigration reform. This is not just political theory for him.

Still nothing from the Chronicle. Perhaps their plan is to get whatever endorsements they plan to do from the long list of remaining races done before the end of Early Voting. They sure aren't going to get it done before Early Voting starts, that's for sure. And with every day of Early Voting that passes, whatever influence they might hope to have over a given race is dimished by that much.

Anyway. The DMN also recommends Sen. John Cornyn on the GOP side - no surprise there. In a race where I'm still unsure of my decision, the Morning News goes for Art Hall as the choice for Railroad Commissioner, while the Star Telegram backs Dale Henry. For Hall:

We recommend former San Antonio City Council member Art Hall over petroleum engineer Dale Henry and therapist for the blind Mark Thompson in the Democratic primary for railroad commissioner.

This wasn't an easy call, even after interviewing each candidate and assessing their backgrounds. For example, the 76-year-old Mr. Henry, of Lampasas, has ample knowledge of the oil and gas industry. We regret that Mr. Hall's not as knowledgeable as Mr. Henry regarding the many technical issues facing the energy-regulating commission.

Still, Mr. Hall, 37, is a stronger candidate. The attorney and investment banker has the support of Henry Cisneros and Garry Mauro. A graduate of Harvard University and Texas Tech School of Law, he has strong political skills that could help him build consensus on the three-member board.

Mr. Hall talks about using this post to emphasize energy conservation just as San Antonio made saving water a crusade. Given Texas' energy demands, that's a great goal.

There is a forum-shopping element to Mr. Hall's candidacy, and he admits he looked at other races before deciding to run for this statewide office. But he is not the first Texan to run for this board as a way to leapfrog to another post.

For Henry:

The Texas Railroad Commission is the chief regulator of the state's oil and gas industry. In that vein, Dale Henry says the commission's premier focus should be safeguarding the environment from water, soil and air pollution associated with the industry.

That's particularly relevant to North Central Texas residents concerned about potential negative environmental consequences from the Barnett Shale natural gas drilling boom. The need for solid, sensible environmental protection is especially strong in heavily populated urban areas.

Henry, 76, of Lampasas speaks from extensive experience. He spent 40-plus years in the oil and gas industry, including contracting with the state for the cleanup and plugging of abandoned wells. A petroleum engineering graduate of the University of Texas, he also has been a small-town city manager and possesses considerable knowledge of water issues.

The Star-Telegram Editorial Board urges that voters in the March 4 Democratic primary election cast their ballots for Henry in the three-candidate race for the Railroad Commission seat held by Republican Michael Williams. The primary winner is to face Williams, who has no GOP opponent, in November.

We should add that Art Hall, 37, a former San Antonio City Council member, is an impressive, personable candidate who should offer himself for public office again if he isn't successful in the commission race. Hall, an attorney and investment banker who grew up in Lubbock, has a bachelor's degree from Harvard and a law degree from Texas Tech.

I was not impressed with Dale Henry's 2006 campaign. He knows his stuff, but he was completely invisible to me, and it's not like I wasn't paying attention. Hell, he didn't even have a campaign website in 06, which is beyond inexcusable. But a lot of people I know and respect are very passionate about Henry's candidacy, and that carries weight with me. As I expressed to one of those folks, the question is whether I think Hall can become a good Railroad Commish, or if Henry can learn to become a good candidate. So far, Henry has done fairly well on that latter score. He's got a website, he's got people working for him, and he's even sending out email - he's the only RR Commissioner candidate I've heard from in this campaign, as it happens. As such, I'm leaning his direction. I'm not all the way there yet, but he's winning me over. Henry also got the AusChron endorsement and some good press in this feature story.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 15, 2008 to Election 2008