October 24, 2007
Now what for Noriega?

Here's today's Chron story about the state of the Senate race, now that it's just Rick Noriega pursuing the Democratic nomination.

Noriega said he is not worried as much about how to run the campaign as to make sure it stays focused on "the junior senator," as he refers to Cornyn.

"I've got buddies dying. There are folks in Iraq who are on their third tour. I wish we could keep our eye on the ball," Noriega said Tuesday.

"My personal experiences and having walked the walk in a lot of these venues brings it home for regular Texans. Money is not the end-all," Noriega said. "We will have what we need to tell our story and tell regular Texans that the junior senator has done a poor job."

Noriega said Watts called Tuesday morning and said he had decided to withdraw from the race because of the strain it was putting on his family.


On Tuesday, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's spokesman was hesitant to rush a voice of financial support to Noriega.

"Why would we want to tip our hand to John Cornyn?" said Matthew Miller.

Noriega said Sen. Charles Schumer of New York recently told him he thought any Democratic nominee would have a good chance of defeating Cornyn. DSCC polling this year showed a third of Texans polled could not identify Cornyn and his re-election numbers were below 50 percent.


Texas Democratic consultant Harold Cook said it is difficult for the national party leaders to make a financial commitment in Texas because the state is so large and has so many media markets. He said Texas has two votes in the Senate just like smaller states where seats can be won for a lot less money.

"I don't think there's a state in the nation where there's a smaller bang for your buck than Texas," Cook said.

To attract national money, he said, Noriega will have to prove between now and September 2008 that he has a decent chance of defeating Cornyn.

"The only thing you have to do to get on the DSCC's radar screen is to make yourself viable," Cook said.

I think that's pretty much true. It's way too early to say where the DSCC may or may not play. Some races that are already on the radar (like Maine) may require more resources than originally anticipated, while others (like Virginia) may require less. Who knows what their priority list will look like in a year's time? For sure, the more Noriega can do on his own, in terms of fundraising and generating voter support, the more likely he'll get help from the national folks down the line.

While Noriega currently is unopposed, the filing deadline is not until Jan. 2. Some Democrats have mentioned former Comptroller John Sharp and former Ambassador to Sweden Lyndon Olson, of Waco, as possible candidates. Noriega said he plans to continue campaigning as if he has an opponent.

John Sharp's name always comes up in "who might run?" discussions. I believe we ratified a constitutional amendment in 2003 requiring that all newspaper articles that include speculation about potential Democratic candidates for statewide office include Sharp's name. As for Lyndon Olson, um, yeah. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say not gonna happen. For what it's worth, I've heard other bits of fevered speculation, ranging from reasonably plausibly to completely ludicrous. Most if not all of it is likely to be forgotten about by the time you read this. Barring anything strange or catastrophic, it's Noriega versus Cornyn.

Elsewhere in Noriega news, he was here in Houston speaking on behalf of HOPE, the city's public employees union - you can see video of it here. He also spoke to the Chron's Matt Stiles about HOPE and the status of his campaign - you can get the audio for that here (MP3). And finally, he was in La Porte speaking in favor of State Proposition 4, which would allocate money to repair and preserve the USS Texas (among other not as desirable things). I suspect his schedule won't be any less busy in the coming months.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 24, 2007 to Election 2008