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July 7th, 2007:

If it’s so great, why don’t you run for it?

I see that some people are just full of advice for Rick Noriega now that he’s a statewide candidate.

Hidalgo County Democratic Party Chairman Juan Maldonado told the Guardian that the minds of many party leaders in the Rio Grande Valley had already been made up. Maldonado confirmed he had held a gathering for Watts in Pharr, that former Cameron County Judge Gilberto Hinojosa had held one for Watts in Brownsville, and that Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas had held one for Watts in Corpus Christi.

“It’s a difficult one because I have always been one that has always promoted Hispanic/Latino candidates. I think Noriega is a tremendous candidate. I like him and I am going to try very hard to encourage him to run for another position statewide,” Maldonado said.

“Those of us in South Texas are committed to Mikal Watts. Rick Noriega is a fine gentleman, a good leader, Latino, we want him. But let’s see if we can do maybe Railroad Commission or maybe he might want to step in when Mario Gallegos steps aside. Those are the kinds of things we want to recommend to him.”

Boy, if only the powers that be had cared this much about downballot offices like the Railroad Commission last year. We might have actually had a stronger ticket, top to bottom, instead of a few serious candidates mixed in among the Fred Heads and Dale Henrys. (Dale Henry? Why, he was our candidate for Railroad Commissioner last year, and rumor has it he wants to run again next year. No, I don’t know anything about him, either. On that score, at least, I can see where Chairman Maldonado is coming from.) What I find curious about this is how Maldonado and his colleagues are so committed to the candidate who has never run for public office before. Now I personally don’t think one has to run entry-level campaigns before taking a crack at a higher office. But I confess I’m a little surprised that some of these county chairs are so willing to toss aside experience as a factor in deciding who to support. We all know ($$$) the reason ($$$) why they love ($$$) Mikal Watts. Which is fine – nobody wins this kind of race without serious money. As long as we all remember that money alone only gets you so far.

I guess the main reaction I have to this is why would you want Rick Noriega to run for Railroad Commissioner? I know that the various Commissioner posts are generally stepping stones to higher offices – does anyone think that Todd Staples woke up one day and said to himself “What I really want to be is Agriculture Commissioner”? – but how is the job a good fit for Rick Noriega and his talents and experiences? Obviously, I’d like to get a strong candidate to run for that office next year, but being a great candidate for one statewide office doesn’t mean you can or should be able to slot in for any other. Maldonado’s “advice” is meaningless; it’s a step above simply telling Noriega not to run at all, which I suppose represents progress, but it’s no favor to him. It is, however, an indicator to me that Maldonado and his crew are worried that Watts might not be able to beat Noriega in a primary. You’d think they’d have more faith in their guy than that. I think I speak for most if not all of Noriega’s supporters that we don’t fear a competitive primary. Why should they?

Finally, if we’re going to get into the business of suggesting alternate races for our opponents to consider, Hal has a suggestion for Mikal Watts. I see no reason why that’s any worse an idea than Noriega for RR Commish; it has quite a bit of merit, in fact. But hey, it’s a free country, and as I say, we welcome Watts’ presence in this race.

As far as Maldonado’s other recommendation for Rep. Noriega, that was not well received.

Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, said he took great exception to comments Maldonado made to a reporter that state Rep. Rick Noriega, D-Houston, should forsake a possible bid for the U.S. Senate and instead announce for the Texas Senate when Gallegos retires.

“I think Juan Maldonado is full of the Christmas turkey,” Gallegos said. “For him to tell Rick to step aside and where to run, and for him to talk about what should happen in Harris County politics, that is strange. I do not tell Maldonado what to do in South Texas.”

[…]

Gallegos said he found it “strange” that Maldonado would call on Noriega to stand aside in favor of Watts before either potential candidate had presented their platform or given Democratic primary voters across the state the opportunity of getting to know them.

“I do not know Mikal Watts. I have nothing against him. I believe he is well-qualified. But for Maldonado to tell Rick to stand aside, I find that pretty strange,” Gallegos said.

Gallegos said he was backing Noriega for U.S. Senate. An announcement that Noriega is setting up an exploratory committee could come next week.

“I think you are looking at the next U.S. senator from Texas in Rick Noriega,” Gallegos said. “Rick has already talked to his colleagues in the House and a lot of people have called him and encouraged him to run. I think he will beat Mikal Watts and anybody else in the Democratic primary and then we will see what goes happens further down the road.”

Gallegos said if Maldonado were to look at previous statewide primaries in Texas he would see that Hispanic Democrats do really well. He pointed to the 1996 U.S. Senate primary, when the relatively unknown Crandall schoolteacher Victor Morales scored a stunning upset win over three seasoned politicians, including two congressmen.

Gallegos said that having served in Afghanistan with the National Guard, and with ten years behind him in the Texas House, Noriega had a lot more public service experience than Morales.

“Juan Maldonado ought to look at what Victor Morales did with his pick-up truck and no money. I respect Maldonado but he needs to look at the overall picture and see what Morales did to John Bryant in the Democratic primary. He needs to take another look at what is going on and support Rick,” Gallegos said.

Can’t really add anything to that except “you tell ’em, Mario”. That’s pretty much all there is to say.

UPDATE: McBlogger has more.

Kyle Janek’s Future Plans

From the Examiner News via Carl Whitmarsh. Janek is my state Senator and I heard some buzz that there was a Democrat considering running for this seat if Janek vacated it. This article does not definitively answer the question, “will Janek run again for his senate seat in 2008?”, but it does put to rest any rumors that he will run for Congress in TX-22 or for Lt. Gov. in 2010.

He’s still District 17’s State Senator, but Kyle Janek isn’t living in the “neighborhood” anymore, so to speak.

Recently, the Examiner came across a garage sale listing of a “moving sale” from May at his West University Place address.

We also observed what appeared to be a vacant house and heard from neighbors on Cason Street how the senator and his family had left after school was out.

Janek confirmed that he had, indeed, moved to a bayside home in Galveston for the summer.

“The yard was just too small for three growing boys,” Janek said with a laugh. “My wife said it was time to move on.”

Before school resumes, he said they’ll make a choice among staying in Galveston County or moving to Fort Bend or Brazoria counties.

The reason? “More space in those neighborhoods,” said Janek.

All those locales also fall into Congressional District 22, Tom DeLay’s old stronghold, now occupied by Nick Lampson. Janek admits “there were people who were asking” him to seek the seat.

“Once upon a time, I would have thought about running, but now I’m definitely not running for Congress,” he said. “That requires commuting that I’m not even willing to consider with a young family.”

Earlier talk of a run for a statewide office — most notably, lieutenant governor — is dying down, he said: “There’s a long line of Republican millionaires waiting to run.”

This spring’s legislative session in Austin caused him to miss “about 90 percent of my sons’ Little League games,” he said ruefully.

For now, Janek explained, he’s catching up with district business after the legislative session and still practicing medicine with a Houston-area group of anesthesiologists.

His wife, Shannon, has given up the successful maternity wear stores she founded and ran with a friend in Rice Village and Austin, he said.

They’ll figure out housing soon, he said. Politically — “I love serving the district. I’ve got one of the best jobs in the state.”