Noriega makes his campaign official
Noriega, a Democrat from Houston, chose the opening day of candidate filing for the 2008 election to include Texas Democratic Party headquarters in Austin on a quickie tour of Texas formally announcing his campaign for the senate seat currently held by Republican John Cornyn.
Noriega was flanked by his wife, newly elected Houston city council member Melissa Noriega, who sat in the Texas House for Noriega while he was in Afghanistan with the Texas National Guard.
The five-term state representative handed a check for his $5,000 filing fee to state party chair Boyd Richie, who welcomed him into the race.
Noriega's campaign had earlier said he would file for office by submitting 5,000 valid petition signatures rather than the $5,000. But he said he decided it was too important to wait, and that he wanted to officially get in the race as soon as possible.
Though he and his wife have long been involved in politics at the grassroots level, "it had become increasingly clear that the politics of arrogance that puts special interests ahead of the public interest was coming from higher up the ladder.
"It was time to challenge the politics of Karl Rove," Noriega said, referring to President George W. Bush's former political adviser, who had masterminded some of Cornyn's earlier statewide campaigns.
Cornyn leaves the impression in photo opportunities that he supports spending for children's health care and veterans programs, while he voted against them in Washington, Noriega charged.
Noriega said Cornyn had been an "obstructionist" to the effort by Congress and President Bush by voting against a measure to deal with immigration. Noriega called it "an emotional issue" that he fears some Republicans are using as a divisive tool.
"It's unfortunate that he had to pander to an extreme ideological group," Noriega said. He contended the border is actually less secure because of the immigration measure's failure. Local law enforcement agencies "feel hung out to dry because the federal government isn't doing its job," Noriega said.
With regard to Iraq, Noriega reiterated his charge that the effort has been mismanaged. He also said the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq is "an occupation," not a war.
"When we are at war, we win wars," Noriega said, with the entire country's population supporting the effort. But in Iraq, "it's clear that this is not a military solution. . . . It's a political solution." And the Bush Administration's criteria for success "has continued to move," Noriega charged. Yet Cornyn continues to support it, he said.
Cornyn's campaign had no response to Noriega's charges, said press spokesman Kevin McLaughlin.
Cornyn already has more than $6 million in his campaign coffers, contrasted to about $500,000 for Noriega.
Noriega was asked about his only declared Democratic opponent so far - Corpus Christi teacher Ray McMurrey. Noriega said he met Mc- Murrey Sunday in Corpus Christi at an event.
"He seems like a fine young man," Noriega said.
Given an opening to say something negative about McMurrey's candidacy, Noriega declined to do so. He said he has spent three decades defending the rights of people to speak up as McMurrey has, and said he deserves applause rather than criticism.
Voter Fraud? . . . Republican Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick has asked the House Elections Committee to find ways to make sure that only legal voters cast ballots.
"We need to endure that only U.S. citizens who are Texas residents are voting in our Texas elections," Craddick. He said current Texas law requires "no photo identification or proof of citizenship when registering to vote or when voting."
A measure to require a photo ID passed the House in 2007, but never could obtain the necessary two-thirds vote to be considered on the Senate floor.
Democrats, who think the effort is aimed at intimidating and discouraging voting, particularly by elderly and Hispanic voters, blocked the bill.
Reach McNeely at email@example.com or 512/323-0248.