Democratic senatorial hopeful Rick Noriega introduced himself to South Texas on Monday by telling audiences that the region has not had representation in the U.S. Senate since Lloyd Bentsen left office in 1993.
Noriega accused Republican incumbent Sen. John Cornyn of failing to fight for the region on issues such as funding the repair of flood levies and the construction of a Veterans Administration hospital in South Texas.
But it also was clear that the Democrats who attended the Noriega gatherings had come to find out who he is. The five-term Texas House member from Houston who is married to Houston City Councilwoman Melissa Noriega is barely known south of the Nueces River.
“I came out here to meet him because I didn’t know who he was,” said Robert Tapa, a member of the Robstown school board.
Noriega cousin Armando Gonzalez of Robstown was asked whether people in South Texas had ever heard of Noriega. Gonzalez replied, “Not really, but they’re going to find out.”
“South Texas has not had a United States senator in years, since the time of Lloyd Bentsen,” Noriega told about 40 people at Lena’s Filipino Restaurant in Kingsville. “When was the last time you saw John Cornyn here, fighting for the people of Kingsville, Kleberg County and South Texas?”
In other news the month-long kerfuffle in the traditional media regarding whether or not Rick Noriega would debate the three other candidates for the Democratic nomination for US Senate appears to be over. (More than likely only two other candidates will show, Gene Kelly hasn’t campaigned for years). From the MYSA article above the details are being worked out.
Also Monday, Noriega’s campaign entered serious negotiations with McMurrey to hold a debate. Noriega has been criticized for refusing to rise to McMurrey’s debate challenge.
McMurrey spokesman William Pate said Noriega’s campaign at first agreed to a Feb. 13 debate and then wanted it moved to Feb. 28. Pate said both dates would be good with McMurrey. Noriega said campaign manager Sue Schechter was negotiating the details.
I think it’s best that Noriega debates his opponents. Dave McNeely had the best article on this, .
Noriega must be thinking that having already raised $1 million, he can afford TV ads when they can’t. But it does look a little odd when a lieutenant colonel in the Texas Army National Guard, who served 14 months in Afghanistan training police, refuses a political debate.
And, presuming a debate would be on neutral turf, like at a public television station, Noriega is passing up an opportunity to put the Senate race on the public’s radar screen. He might take some punches, but it could give him free media exposure for himself and the Senate race, but show he can handle himself against opponents.
He’ll certainly need that if he’s the Democratic nominee against Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. John Cornyn.
Noriega, now in his fifth term in the Texas House of Representatives, is no stranger to debate. He’s bright and articulate, and has a sense of humor he hasn’t demonstrated much on the campaign trail. He should consider that exposure might hurt rather than help his opponents.
While it’s understandable that Noriega would duck the debate, it could do him more harm than good. It certainly will give Cornyn, who has indicated he’s willing to debate primary opponent Larry Kilgore, an excuse to refuse to debate Noriega in the fall.
I’m glad he chose to debate, it’s the right thing to do, and he will show himself to be the best candidate for the Democratic nomination. He should also debate for the two reasons McNeely mentions: free exposure, and to take away any excuse Cornyn might have not to debate in the fall.