No, that’s not the Austin Chronicle. It’s the Houston Chronicle. The main reason that the Chronicle gives for the endorsement is one from the distant past of Texas politics, when bringing home the bacon was more important than ideology: that the Democrats are going to be the majority party and Texas (and Houston) need to have a strong voice in the Democratic ranks, or else Texas could find itself shut out of the pork, uh, I mean the earmarks, uh, I mean our fair share of federal grants and programs. I could make a similar argument for endorsing Cornyn, however: that if Noriega is elected, and Kay Bailey resigns her seat, Texas will be left with two very junior senators with no seniority and no prospects of gaining influence in the foreseeable future. Cornyn is a member of the Republican leadership organization and rates to move up in the years to come. It is not a stretch to imagine him as minority leader, or, when the pendulum swings back to the Republicans, majority leader. He does represent the largest red state. Even if Cornyn were to lose to Noriega, I could envision him entering the special election for Hutchison’s seat — and winning. Here are some excerpts from the endorsement editorial: * Come January, the halls of Congress will likely be populated by strengthened Democratic majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Texas will need able representation in all arenas in that shifting legislative environment. It will be especially important for Texans to have a strong, respected voice inside the expected Democratic majority in the Senate. Rick Noriega offers such a voice, with a distinctive Lone Star tone and perspective. * Noriega, a Houstonian, describes himself as a Texas Democrat. That term, once common currency in the state’s political conversation, seems to have fallen out of favor over the past several Republican-dominated years . . . . Some old-fashioned moderate bipartisanship, Texas style, should be much welcomed in the Washington debate, particularly on overheated topics such as energy and immigration. Rick Noriega can provide it. * Noriega well understands that there are subjects on which Texas Democrats must stand apart from the party’s national leadership. Energy is one. He is committed to bringing the message that the nation will need new domestic oil and gas supplies as it builds a bridge to greater energy independence and increased reliance on alternative energy sources. He will be able to point out in a forceful and personal way the folly of relying almost exclusively on hurricane-prone areas of the Gulf for supplies when abundant reserves can be tapped on the East and West coasts with little risk to the environment. * On immigration, Noriega is in step with traditional Texas views of tolerance and a warm embrace of cultural differences, rooted in respect for the law. He will bring calm and reason to the national debate. * Our decision to support Noriega was not made without due consideration of Cornyn’s strengths. The one-term incumbent has been a strong and reliable supporter of freedom of information and open government laws. And he worked to speed up the citizenship process for immigrants serving in the military. But John Cornyn also has been a too-loyal foot soldier for the Bush administration, willing to make a right turn off the cliff in support of fatally flawed policies on Iraq and torture, as well as casting improvident votes on a host of social issues. Unlike Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, he is not known for his attention to constituent services. I regard this race as a hard choice. I don’t think Noriega is ready for the Senate, but he has come a long way since he first announced his candidacy. At the same time, I find myself in agreement with the Chronicle’s view — unstated, but implicit — that Cornyn, once widely regarded as a voice of moderation (and who ran as a moderate in 2002), has been more loyal to the hard right Republican ideology and the GOP base than to his overall Texas constituency. The Chronicle correctly singled out immigration as an issue in which he is out of step with Texas tradition. The editorial also mentioned social issues (stem cell research matters in a major medical community); it also might have brought up Cornyn’s votes (six of them, according to Noriega) against the expansion of S-CHIP, the state children’s health insurance program, even though Texas leads the nation in uninsured children. I suspect that the deciding factor in the endorsement was that Noriega is from Houston. All politics is local, as they say, and the Chronicle’s politics clearly lean toward having a hometown senator. I would be quite surprised if the Chronicle’s sister newspaper in the Hearst family, the San Antonio Express-News, doesn’t endorse Cornyn, their local-boy-made-good.
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