Sunday, July 01, 2007

For Senate: What Message Should Texas Democrats Be Sending?

Next March, March 3rd to be precise, that’s 247 days from today, Texas Democrats will go to the primary polls again. This time to choose, among other races who they want in the White House and who they think will beat John Cornyn in November.

This is going to be a closely watched election because Texas was one of the few states that didn’t participate in the 2006 Blue Revolution. What kind of message should we send to the world then?

I think the message will be embodied in the Senate race. First, because in all probability the presidential race may be all but over by the time Texas gets around to voting. Second, because who Texas opts for in the presidential race will not reveal anything about the values of Texas Democrats.

The senate race will.

Let’s say that it becomes a 3-way race between “exploring” Mikal Watts, “announced” Emil Reichstadt, and “rumored” Rick Noriega.

“Rumored,” by the way, is getting to be more like “very probably” if you take a read at W. Gardner Selby’s Austin American-Statesman article today.

Reichstadt has announced that he will run for the seat. He announced last April 14th, two and a half months ago, and we haven’t heard anything from him since. If nothing changes, we have two horses in this race, not three.

We have Texas trial lawyer Mikal Watts, a self-funding “Bloombergesque” candidate whose political stands appear to have a progressive bent, with the exception of abortion rights, which he doesn’t think women should have. He’s a reasonably bright guy, though, who has used his law degree to enrich people who have been wronged by greedy corporations. He has gotten some big awards, and the resulting contingency fees that have rolled in over the years give him a leg up on opposing a well-financed Republican.

Well-financed Republican, by the way is a redundancy in Texas.

He has used his fortune to fund Democratic campaigns all over the state. He has spent millions. In doing so, he has garnered a lot of appreciation from folks that may not have been elected had he not infused their campaigns with huge wads of cash.

Message? Cash is king.

Wasn’t it Archimedes who said “Give me cash big enough and I can lift the world”? This is the message of a man who wants to be the next junior senator from Texas. He and his supporters want it to be the message that Texans will send to the world. Anything can be bought if you have enough money.

And then we have Texas State Representative Rick Noriega. Rick represents an Hispanic-dominant district in Houston. Money hasn’t been a huge factor in his five campaigns. Selby reports that he has spent $550,000 in campaign money in all of his races combined. Huge wads of cash do not define Rick Noriega. He himself has said as much last month as reported in another Selby article.

“I am seriously looking at the race, but whether or not I get in or not, I have no intention of getting into a back and forth with a bank account. I do not want to reinforce the unhealthy idea that a candidate is judged solely on money.”
So a message from a Noriega primary win will not be about “Cash is king”.

If not, then, what will it be about?

It will be about Texans not wanting to send the richest man to the Senate, just the best one.

It will be about sending to the Senate someone who bases his life on public service. Someone who worked in the state legislature to make it possible for children of illegal immigrants to get a college education, and not pay the oppressive out-of-state tuition that would put higher education out of their reach. Someone who supports the notion that a woman should have final say over what goes on with her body, and not the government. Someone who served in Afghanistan teaching Afghans how to fight the Al-Qaeda-supporting Taliban. Someone who made the lives of thousands of New Orleans refugees more comfortable if not more possible in his work at the George R. Brown Convention Center after Hurricane Katrina hit.

Texas Democrats have a real opportunity to show the world that Texans value substance and service over the long green.

Rick Noriega is simply the best man for the job based on quality, not currency. By sending Rick Noriega up to face down John Cornyn in November, Texans can send a clear, strong message to the world that things have changed here.

Now it's not just bloggers that have raised their collective voices to urge Rick Noriega to run for Senate. Go here and see how 47 of Rick's Democratic colleagues in the state house have added their voices to the chorus.

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