Update: People in the comments are very excited about Rep. Noriega taking on John Cornyn and hanging Jack Abramoff around his neck. We’d love to send him home today with 20 more donors at $5 each to his Act Blue account. You can join the effort here – jh
[Please be polite and respectful of our guest, and stay on topic in the comments — any off-topic discussions should go to the prior thread. With that, please help me welcome Rick Noriega (second from left in the photograph) to FDL! — CHS]
If anyone needed more heartbreaking proof, last Saturday night’s disgraceful FISA vote, during which 43 treacherous quasi-Democrats crossed the aisle to vote with Cheney, Bush and the GOP to try to shred our Constitution — that should have been all anyone needs to understand that we need more than just Democrats elected to Congress.
We need real Democrats who aren’t governed by political cowardice, confusion, big corporate bribes and Clintonian triangulation.
The day before I had a great phone conversation with just the antidote for that kind of Democrat– Texas Rep. Rick Noriega, who recently announced that he’s taking on the U.S. Senator with the absolute worst and most reactionary voting record in the entire U.S. Senate. I’m not exaggerating. John Cornyn actually beats out nutcase Jim DeMint of South Carolina by 0.21 out of 100 points on the fascist maniac scale.
Looking at John Cornyn’s record infuriates me. It made Rick Noriega acquiesce to a loud and insistent draft Noriega movement that had been gaining momentum across Texas all year.
When we spoke last week, he was in Chicago at YKos and I was in L.A. I started by telling him the problems our community had with a fake Democrat, Chris Carney, who we had endorsed and raised money for last year only to see him become a faithful Bush rubber stamp. I wanted to make sure Rick was aware that we are a progressive community, not just a bunch eager to elect any kind of worthless Democrat. He laughed. “A little radicalism now and then isn’t that bad. Look at all the trouble our country has gotten into because people haven’t stood up.” I had a feeling I was going to like him; it got better.
He quoted men like Camillus, Cincinnatus and George Washington: “When I picked up the sword I didn’t lay down the citizen… Hate crimes… I voted for that every time it’s come up in the Texas legislature.”
Rick was born in 1958 and for the last 9 years he’s represented a Texas House district in the eastern part of Houston. Rick is well known as a relentless champion of public education. His own higher education started in a junior college and ended at Harvard. Before being elected to the legislature he was a school teacher — and as well as an Adjunct General in the Texas Army National Guard. He saw service in Afghanistan. He has a wife (recently elected to the Houston city council) and two sons — and a thoroughly progressive record in state politics to run on.
Before Rick can really get to the easy task — taking apart the super-reactionary junior senator who daily disgraces the state of Texas — he has to win a primary against a very, very, very wealthy trial lawyer, Mikal Watts. Watts not only has a great deal of money — which, no doubt has Chuck Schumer drooling — but he also has a silver tongue. He knows how to talk the talk. He’s never walked the walk and there is no indictation he ever will — at least not for us.
Rick wants to end Bush’s wars because, among other things, he’s fought in them on the ground, unlike Bush, Cornyn or Watts. He understands what border security is all about and why its important to all Americans and not just a racist cudgel to drum up xenophobic, nativist political support. He’s run a FEMA-like effort to help offer shelter to New Orleans refugees. He’s not just a guy who’s read about these things or pulled out a checkbook to contribute. Rick has always walked the walk.
And like he told me, “We need more regular folks in the Senate; there are enough millionaires in there already.”
Ask people who follow the Texas legislature and they’ll tell you that Rick is the kind of guy who tries to bring people together and to work on issues from common ground. It doesn’t make him less a man of strong convictions; it makes him a purposeful realistic who gets the peoples’ business done. He’s the diametric opposite of Cornyn, whose entire modus operandi is divisiveness and, like Rove and Bush, splitting the nation apart. (Speaking of Rove, by the way, Cornyn was his invention. Rove, who was recently the keynote speaker at a Cornyn fundraiser in Harlingen, first recruited Cornyn to run for office.)
I asked Rick about the tough, divisive issues Republicans always throw at progressives in Texas: choice, gays, stuff like that they use to demonize people. His voting record on choice is unblemished — a 100% from NARAL — and on personal issues like that and on gay issues, Rick embodies the best of Texas traditions: a libertarian scorn for government interference in peoples’ private lives.
“It’s not government’s role to tell women what to do about their health and their reproductive rights. And it’s not government’s role to tell people who they can love and not love. These are civil rights issues.”
Can someone run for the Senate — in red, red Texas — and speak up for gays? He went immediate back into his Afghanistan experiences to explain that.
“In terms of our unit’s security, I could have cared less about anyone’s sexual orientation. What I was concerned with was that everyone knew how to operate their weapons effectively. I have no clue if there were gay men in my unit; I know I’m back home safely. It’s about competence, not orientation. This is another example of how we have political ‘leadership’ that tries to drive us apart as a people — and for no other purpose than their own partisan gain. The politics of division doesn’t serve our value system as Americans… Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is antiquated. We’ve lost professionals by being hung up on this. It doesn’t serve us and I’ll vote against it when I’m in the Senate. A poor moral character is a poor moral character, regardless of your orientation — and poor moral character is not in the best interest of order and discipline in a military framework.”
When I asked Rick to define how he’s most different from Cornyn I had a feeling I would be running up the phone bill by a lot. But he really talked about two overarching issues: Cornyn’s blatant obstructionism on the immigration issue, an issue Texans are out front on and want to see solved in a reasonable and practical way; and how he’s been a Bush rubber stamp on every other issue.
On immigration Cornyn “used it as a wedge to divide people — a political party person, not a Texan.” And as far as the rest of the Bush agenda, Cornyn has been pure rubber stamp “on everything from emission standards to escalation in Iraq. He even voted against a bipartisan amendment to allow for our troops to get adequate rest between deployments.”
Oh and if you wonder why Cornyn thinks Alberto Gonzales should stay on at the Justice Deptartment, watch this short clip and hear why in his own words. He explains it exactly — and it’s only about one thing: rubber stamp, misplaced Republican Party loyalty. Cornyn can always be counted on to put GOP interests above the interests of America and above the interests of Texas: