Could Houston's Present Be Texas's Future

Cross posted at www.BurntOrangeReport.comand

Not often you watch a Saturday, off-cycle runoff with anticipation.  This past weekend, Texas bloggers watched intently as the Houston City Council At-Large results came in.

Houston Mayor Bill White has been long rumored to be eyeing a statewide race in 2010, and growing the Democratic base and brand in his own backyard is an important part of preparing for such a run.

Clearly Melissa Noriega, State Rep. and decorated war hero Rick Noriega's wife, was interested in her own race against Republican Roy Morales.  Would she be able to win a race so few thought she should run in? A loss surely ended any speculation that her husband could run for statewide office, while a victory would fuel the speculation.

As Saturday's numbers rolled in (slowly but surely) Noriega won handily.  She beat Morales by over 11 points and now all eyes turned toward the future. Harris County is home to 1,782,013 voters spread throughout 875 precincts. Texas only has 12,357,887 registered voters in 254 counties or 8,306 precincts.  What happens in Houston is a gage of 14% of the Texas electorate.

During the last presidential election an impressive 1,067,968 people voted in Harris County -- 55% turnout of registered voters at the time.

Not only does extending our bench to 8 out of 14 city council members in Houston matter, but Melissa Noriega winning a citywide election in such a crucial state will possibly influence both the primary and general election for another Noriega.

The news gets better in Houston. Houston City Council is now at 8 to 6 majority for Democrats, but if you include influential and ambitious Mayor Bill White and Controller Annise Parker, that means Democrats hold 10 of 16 regionally and citywide elected officials.

Now that we are done with the city elections, we are staring directly at 2008, and Houston has changed the picture.

What started with bad poll numbers, quickly shifted to an online movement to Stop Cornyn, and not even a week after Melissa Noriega's victory, a full scale netroots Draft Rick effort has begun.

Did Saturday act as a referendum for Team Noriega?  Was it the catalyst needed to produce a primary between Mikal Watts and Rep. Rick Noriega?

The Houston race made a clear statement, the Noriega name is no longer limited to Rick Noriega's State House district.  Melissa's victory has both expanded her husband's money base and created a necessary foothold into voter rich Harris County.  Without a Melissa Noriega victory this past weekend, Rick Noriega would be far less viable candidate on a statewide ballot.

During the last Presidential election, a seventh of Texas's vote, totaling over 7.4 million votes, came fro Houston.  It is not entirely clear what the numbers will look like for the triad of a Presidential year, no Texan on a Presidential ballot, and having a competitive US Senate Race AND Presidential contest at the same time.

Not since 1996 have we a political timeline similar to the one we have now.  There are too many recent positive indicators for Texas Democrats for us to ignore the 2008 Senate race. Over the past 2 cycles Democrats have picked up 7 State House Seats, won governing municipal majorities in nearly every major city and won back congressional seats and judicial benches.  With Cornyn's poll numbers below 50% and the Texas Governor winning with only 39% of the vote and Bush's numbers even worse than both, anything can happen.

While Rick Noriega isn't officially in the race yet, last Saturdays city council elections makes it both likely and more interesting.

Tags: 2008 elections, Houston, melissa noriega, Rick Noriega,, TX-Sen (all tags)



Great write up, Matt.

It was really sweet to see that double digit margin for Melissa.

The Noriega family clearly takes public service very seriously.  

Wouldn't that be a nice quality in a Senator from Texas? Been a long time since anybody but a Corporate Director or a Right Wingnut has had any attn from ol' Box Turtle.

by boadicea 2007-06-18 12:45PM | 0 recs
Re: Could Houston's Present Be Texas's Future

This is interesting.  Who should we get behind?  Mikal Watts or Rick Noriega?

Mikal could split the social conservative vote because he's running as a pro-life candidate and he can self-fund himself to a certain extent.  He put 3.6 million dollars of his own money into his campaign in order to match Cornyn dollar for dollar.  

A recent example of a pro-life Democrat splitting the social conservative vote would be Bob Casey, 2006, Pennsylvania.  Kerry won Pennsylvania 51-48.5.  Bob Casey won Pennsylvania over possible future presidential candidate Rick Santorum 58.7 to 41.1.  It's safe to say that Santorum is no longer considering a presidential bid anytime soon.  

Rick Noriega has been in the military, a state representative, and probably carries better name recognition.

Experience seems to be on Noriega's side.  

Who seems better to run?  Personally I am leaning towards Watts.  Anyone else want to weigh in on this?  

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-06-18 12:46PM | 0 recs
Re: Could Houston's Present Be Texas's Future

At this point both need major boosts and a primary is the only way to do that.  Like I mentioned, we haven't seen a real race for President AND Senator at the same time in Texas.

Watts has the money backing but has no name ID outside of pundits and grasstop activists.  Noriega has some strong name ID in Houston, but he is going to need Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio to win.  On top of that, Noriega can't write himself a check for 3.8 million.

The only solution I see for having a strong general election candidate is to have a strong primary.  Raise cash.  Build grassroots infrastructure.  Increase name ID.

The only concern I have is whether it gets too negative in the primary and we kill our chances for November.

by Matt Glazer 2007-06-18 12:51PM | 0 recs
It takes more than money

Or we would have been celebrating the re-election of Gov. Tony Sanchez in 2006.

And I'm very wary of another anti-abortion stalking horse in the Democratic Party.  Women and their physicians should make the decisions about their health care, not Senators.

Watts would be an improvement over Cornyn, but I'm not convinced Texans need to settle for that.

I think we can have a tested and genuine leader in the Senate.  I'd prefer Texas had a  Jim Webb, not a Bob Casey.

Draft Rick Noriega for the U.S. Senate.

by boadicea 2007-06-18 12:52PM | 0 recs
Re: It takes more than money

People who vote primarily based on abortion are way out of touch with reality.

Abortion being a major legislative issue on the federal level hasn't happend for quite some time.

by world dictator 2007-06-18 06:02PM | 0 recs
Didn't read the rest of my comment

Nor is that the only reason to prefer a Noriega candidacy to Watts.

But it is important to women's health, and the assault on that is happening on the Federal level and the state level.

Don't ignore issues that are important to the sleeping giant that is the female vote.

Autonomy over one's health decisions is basic.

by boadicea 2007-06-18 06:27PM | 0 recs

I think Watts would be a grassroots netroots candidate but Rick would be a Jim Webb but better. A vet, a populist. Just what we need. A clean positive primary could do a lot of good. I'm all behind Rick though and I think the netroots will too.

Draft Rick!

by Populista 2007-06-18 02:53PM | 0 recs
Re: We'll

I think Rick is really a great person to run...esp. if Obama is on the ticket - maybe we'll finally see that latino vote Texas D's have been waiting on.

by gb1437a 2007-06-18 02:56PM | 0 recs
Re: Could Houston's Present

Great Post - I know he is in the dog house, now.  But, I'm hoping on Sly Turner for Speaker as well - I hear he probably has the couple R votes needed to pull it off.

by gb1437a 2007-06-18 02:29PM | 0 recs
That's a diversionary tactic

He's trying to give shelter to some of his fellow Craddick D's.

I understand he's popular in his legislative district, but he's burned too many colleagues on the floor.

And don't even get me started on the crocodile tears in the service of preserving Craddick's Speakership.

by boadicea 2007-06-18 05:58PM | 0 recs
Re: That's a diversionary tactic

Yeah a lot of people are using that theory.  But, I think he believes he has a real shot.  If he can come to the caucus and demonstrate he has a couple R votes (which he probably does) they will be hard-pressed to pass up the oppurtunity for him (a black democrat) to be speaker.  Sly has racked up a lot of favors, and he may be cashing in.

by gb1437a 2007-06-18 08:01PM | 0 recs
Re: That's a diversionary tactic

Except that he's not and doesn't have real shot. People have that theory because it's right.

by KTatActBlue 2007-06-18 11:16PM | 0 recs
Re: Could Houston's Present Be Texas's Future

Senate primary- Noriega vs Watts-Grassroots vs Netroots-Get to the bottom line-what do we want -to stop Cornyn-why would anyone want a bloody primary.

by nuts101 2007-06-18 05:30PM | 0 recs
Senator Jim Webb

And Senator Jon Tester.

A contested primary will heighten the profile of the eventual winner, and both will need that in a state as big as Texas.  

Watts needs to leave a woman's medical decisions between her and her doctor. Those choices are not to be made on the Senate floor.


by boadicea 2007-06-18 05:56PM | 0 recs
Re: Could Houston's Present Be Texas's Future

p.s. Watts is personally anti-abortion. Not the whole u.s.a. anti-choice. I am actually pro-self choice. For my self my body i would choose  not to do it. but i would not deem to make that choice for anyone else.

by nuts101 2007-06-18 05:37PM | 0 recs
Re: Could Houston's Present Be Texas's Future

That's kind of like being personally pro-choice like a northeastern US Senator. That may be your personal opinion but if that's not how you vote, who cares?

by The 13th Texan 2007-06-18 11:19PM | 0 recs
Re: Could Houston's Present Be Texas's Future

The mayor race was pretty upsetting.  It was supposed to be very close and the Republican ended up near 60 pct.  Very troubling.

by Socks The Cat 2007-06-18 09:00PM | 0 recs
Re: Texas's Future

Are you changing the subject to the Dallas Mayor's race? Otherwise your comment does not compute. The diary indicates that Houston Mayor White, a Democrat, is sitting pretty.

by Woody 2007-06-18 09:18PM | 0 recs


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