Houston State Representative Rick Noriega has taken the first step toward what’s expected to be a run fo U.S. Senate next year, filing papers in Austin to create an exploratory committee. As Houston Public Radio’s Jack Williams reports, Noriega and a San Antonio attorney are the first two Democrats to line-up to challenge Republican incumbant John Cornyn.
Noriega says he’ll tour the state this fall, looking for support as he contemplates a full-fledged run for the senate in 2008. The 49-year-old won’t be at a loss for accomplishments to campaign on if he does decide to run. Along with a good record in Austin, Noriega spent 2005 training police in Afghanistan as part of his Texas National Guard commitment. During hurricane Katrina, he was Mayor White’s incident commander at the George R. Brown Convention Center, which housed hundreds of evacuees.
“I think what Texans and Americans appreciate is people who have walked the walk. I think that currently we see a lot of people in Washington making decisions without a base of experience and therefore exercise poor judgment versus those Texans that are making the sacrifices, that walk the walk everyday. So I think are prepared to have someone represent them that comes from a background of service and putting Texas first.”
San Antonio attorney Mikal Watts has also formed an exploratory committee and has already invested about $4 million of his own money in his campaign. Both are hoping to unseat John Cornyn, who has seen his most recent approval ratings fall under 50 percent.
“I think that separate from being this administrations number one cheerleader or rubber stamp, when offered the opportunity to work in a bipartisan way on a situation like immigration policy, then chose to become a political ideologue and obstructionist. I think Texans want leadership. They want somebody to go up to Washington and get things done.”
Despite Cornyn’s recent polling troubles, Texas Southern University political science associate professor Sanders Anderson says Republicans have had a stranglehold on U-S Senate seats for at least the past decade. He says it won’t be easy for either Noriega or Watts to unseat Cornyn.
“His popularity might have gone down in some circles but because statewide the Republican party is still dominant in terms of winning statewide offices and of course he’s going to have the help of Kay Bailey Hutchison and the Republican establishment. It is not a forgone conclusion that the Democrats are going to have an easy time of it. They are still going to have an uphill battle. It’s going to be a very difficult fight for whoever gets the nomination.”
Anderson says in the primaries, it might boil down to Noriega’s name recognition against Watts’ money. In a written statement, Watts said it’s clear Texans are demanding a change in Washington.