Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Is There A Blue Texas in the Future?

When I attended the Breakfast With Burnham event last month, Lon said something that I dismissed at the time at partisan-speak. Lon believes that the Democrats have a chance to capture the State House in the next election cycle. I've more or less resigned myself to living in a Red State for the foreseeable future, so I really just wrote off the comment. That is until I read this op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.

Royal Masset, a political consultant and longtime political director for the Republican Party of Texas--who played a key role in organizing the grassroots support that took the GOP from marginality to an overwhelming majority--has been predicting a reversal for years.

"There's a certain inevitability in demographics," he told the WSJ. "We knew that if we could win 40% of the Hispanic vote," as Mr. Bush did in 2004, "we'd control Texas until 2030." But in 2006, the number of Texas Hispanics who voted Republican fell to between 30% and 35% (depending on the poll).

This shift alone spells trouble for Republicans. Many conservatives may not want to hear it, but Mr. Masset puts the blame on talk radio and cable TV reaction to immigration reform. He says an uncompromising attitude toward comprehensive reform and appeals to fear sometimes carry a whiff of racism that alienates Hispanics.

And if the demographic shift continues to gain momentum, there's a real possibility that Democrats could achieve a majority in the Texas House by 2010. In 2003, Tom DeLay helped redraw the state's congressional districts to give Republicans six new seats in Congress. In just a few years, Democrats could turn the tables. Mr. Masset sums it up this way: "This thing with the Latino vote is deadly serious."

Wow. Could this be true, or is this some doom-and-gloom prediction designed to whip up the Republican base? I haven't been able to imagine a Democrat who could win in a run for a statewide office until I saw this guy -- State Rep. Rick Noriega (pictured above). He'll announce today the formation of an exploratory committee leading up to a U.S. Senate campaign.

Noriega, a five-term House member from Houston and a lieutenant colonel in the National Guard, is a 26-year veteran of the U.S. armed forces, who spent most of 2005 running training facilities in Afghanistan as part of the Texas National Guard. Noriega also ran a National Guard border-security operation in Laredo, and Houston Mayor Bill White had him manage the housing of Hurricane Katrina evacuees at the George R. Brown Convention Center.

"As Americans, it is our duty to stand up and speak when things have gone off the rails," Noriega, 49, said in an Independence Day posting on several Democratic-leaning Internet blogs. "It is in our very fabric, our soul; it is God's requirement of us as heirs to the legacy of this country, to exercise the right to speak out as our forefathers taught us."

This guy looks like a world-beater, or at least a Cornyn-beater. And it looks like he'll be in town Thursday to help Lon Burnham celebrate his birthday at the Botanic Gardens. I think I'll try to drop by and check that out. For more information on Rick Noriega, check out the Draft Rick Noriega blog.

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