Friday, August 31, 2007

Rick Noriega in Dallas Yesterday

Rick Noriega isn't officially running for the U.S. Senate, but you'd never know it by watching him yesterday.

He was here in the Fort yesterday afternoon for a lunch at Joe T's where he spoke to a group of 50 over enchiladas, picking up campaign contributions and the endorsements of Tarrant County State Representatives Lon Burnam, Paula Hightower Pierson and Marc Veasey before making his way through the rain to Far North Dallas for event at the home of Lenna Webb and Bob Franklin.

Noriega's had a good week for endorsements. Governor Dolph Briscoe, Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby and State Senator Rodney Ellis gave him their support, as did the Texas State Association of Firefighters. An endorsment from Daily Kos appears to be forthcoming next week.

Why the endorsements? Why are all of these people lining up behind him now?

Because in the reddest of red states, in the heart of maybe the most Republican state in the country, Rick Noriega looks like he can do the unthinkable: run as a Democrat for a statewide office and win. And after listening to him last night, I'm more convinced than ever.

Part of his appeal is his military bearing. The Texas National Guard lieutenant colonel and Afghanistan vet isn't vulnerable to accusation of being "soft" on security. He can talk about running a convoy and setting up checkpoints because he's been there. As he puts it, he knows the difference between an M203 and an M&M.

"I just got back from two weeks of training at Fort Benning, and when you look at these 18- and 19-year-old kids who will do anything their country asks them to do, you realize they deserve better. They need leadership that is willing to be held accountable."

After six years of the dodge and deflect strategy from Republicans, it's kind of refreshing to hear that. But Noriega also knows that the Republicans aren't going to take this lying down.

"Are we as Texans ready to take a step forward? Our state is off track and if we are going to set things right, we must be ready for the campaign of misinformation that John Cornyn and the Republicans are ready to unleash. They'll use this to divide us so they can maintain power. We have to reject that, but it will be a tough fight."

I can't help but wonder how long will it take before Dallas' own Merrie Spaeth finds a way to swift boat Noriega and tell us he wasn't even in Afghanistan?

But Noriega was there. And he's also served with the Guard along the border, and was tapped by Houston Mayor Bill White to manage the care for 30,000 Katrina evacuees at the George R. Brown Convention Center. That, combined with his background as a legislator allows him to speak knowledgeably on defense, security and immigration issues. If that's what you want, he can do the wonk thing.

But he also has the one-liners down, too. When someone asked the inevitable Larry Craig question, he knocked it over the fence -- "Republicans give gays and lesbians a bad name."

Of course, that wasn't the only bit of Republican hypocrisy that he skewered. He got plenty of shots in at the junior senator from the State of Texas. "John Cornyn voted twice to build a wall along the border. When he's speaking in East Texas, he tells them he voted for it. When he speaks in the Valley, he says he voted against. But he's changed his position on lots of issues since this little chihuahua started nipping at his heels."

And that is part of what makes Rick Noriega such a formidable candidate -- he's an experienced legislator with a significant military background who also happens to be Hispanic. And because he's so strong with issues that Republicans have traditionally owned, he can talk about education, healthcare and social issues without appearing to be "soft" on anything. As he puts it, "Compassion isn't a weakness." Amen, brother.

So who is Rick Noriega? He's the guy Republicans have worried about for years. And he's the guy Democrats have been waiting for. He's a winner.

Help Rick Noriega Today
Today, grassroots activists across Texas are launching a petition to put Rick on the March 2008 Democratic Primary Ballot. The election code gives candidates the option of obtaining signatures or paying $5,000 to qualify a candidate for the ballot. Many candidates opt to just pay the fee because it's the "easy" way to go.

Not Rick. He's building a grassroots campaign, and here's our chance to show the strength of the Noriega grassroots. Texas requires a candidate to obtain 5,000 signatures. Rick wants 25,000 signatures. You can help him get there by signing a petition. Download one here or drop me a line and I'll sign you up.

Also, take time to tell someone about Rick. And, if you are able, send him a few dollars. A small investment in time and money today could mean a Democratic senator from Texas in 2008.

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