Weekend Noriega update

Just a pair of recent articles on Rick Noriega since the announcement that Mikal Watts was dropping out of the Senate race.

Team Noriega, from the DMN.

Rick Noriega, the sole Democratic contender to challenge U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, is more than committed to politics. He’s married to it.

The Army lieutenant colonel and state representative from Houston’s East End was set to fight San Antonio plaintiffs lawyer Mikal Watts in the March primary, in what would have been an expensive and close fight.

That changed this week when Mr. Watts stepped out of the contest, saying that the campaign was taking a toll on his family. No other candidates have announced that they’re interested in the Democratic primary, though the filing deadline isn’t until January.

Family is a familiar reason given by politicos to step down from the campaign stump, but politics has characterized the Noriega family’s lives together for more than 20 years.

While he readies the jets for his campaign, his wife, Melissa Noriega, is gearing up for re-election in a couple of weeks to the at-large Houston City Council seat she won in July.

“We’re just doing what we believe we’re supposed to be doing,” Mr. Noriega said.

With his-and-hers campaign signs on their cars and an overflowing schedule of politicking interrupting family dinner time with their two sons, the Noriegas are ready for a crazy and trying year.

“We like this,” Ms. Noriega said. “It’s what we do.”

Democrats might bank on Noriega, from the Statesman’s editorial board blog.

There are any number of issues that next year’s Senate candidates should speak to: The war in Iraq and against Islamic extremists; paying for medical service in general and for children in particular; immigration and border walls; what, if anything, to do about global warming; expiring tax cuts and federal spending; and more.

And the Democratic candidate likely will want to argue this point: With Democrats likely to retain their Senate majority, and perhaps capture the White House, wouldn’t Texas benefit from having a Democratic senator? It’s safe to assume that some Texas business leaders will ponder that question, too.


Noriega is a serious candidate: He’s 49 years old, has a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University; has served as a lieutenant colonel in the Texas National Guard and is a veteran of service in Afghanistan; and has been a state representative since 1998. He’s married and has two sons.

And there’s this: At a time when feelings about immigration – legal or otherwise, for and against – are running hot, Noriega, a native of Houston, is a proud Hispanic Texan. That could work for him by bringing to the ballot box Hispanic voters who might otherwise ignore the election, and against him by motivating some voters to oppose him because they think he would be soft on illegal immigration.


Cornyn, supposedly, is weaker than one might expect because of his close identification with President Bush. And he’s been working hard in recent weeks to explain that his vote against the State Children’s Health Insurance Program was not a vote against health care for kids. Making that point stick wasn’t helped by the fact that his fellow Texas Republican senator, Kay Bailey Hutchison, voted for the bill, which was vetoed by Bush.

I think we’ll be hearing about that a few more times between now and next November. It’s what Cornyn is all about. Perhaps in 2008, as the Bush era finally draws to a close, we’ll be ready to fully close the door on it.

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