In addition to awarding one Texan of the Year (coming this Friday), the Texas Progressive Alliance chose to recognize a number of others who have contributed to Texas politics and the progressive cause during 2007. This week, leading up to the TOY announcement, we bring you our Texas Progressive Alliance Gold Stars (one each day through Thursday).
Melissa and Rick Noriega
These two Houston Democrats could easily be called Texas' new political power couple. Melissa Noriega made news this year with her run for the Houston City Council seat, vacated by Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, who had resigned to complete the last six weeks of former Congressman Tom DeLay's term in 2006. Through a special election, a runoff, and a general election battle to win the council seat for the full term, Melissa's progressive message endeared her to Houston voters, earned significant media recognition, and helped mark her as part of a new generation of progressive leaders with statewide potential. She had previously served as interim state legislator while her husband served his country in Afghanistan as a reservist and lieutenant colonel in the Texas National Guard.
Rick Noriega's story is also well known: as a veteran of the "War on Terror" and the coordinator for Houston's relief effort for Hurricane Katrina victims in 2005, Rick generated buzz early in 2007 as a number of progressive netroots activists and traditional, offline Democrats created a movement to "draft" Noriega into the Democratic Party's race for US Senate. Rick answered the call and threw his hat into the ring to take on John Cornyn and the formidable Texas Republican machine in 2008, despite the fact that he could have easily won re-election to the Texas Legislature or even run for another office where the battle would have been easier. Instead, he had the courage to stand up for all Texans and declare "enough is enough".
True people-powered candidates, Rick and his wife Melissa have made significant personal sacrifices to serve the people of Texas. For this and many other reasons, the Texas Progressive Alliance is pleased to recognize Rick and Melissa Noriega among its 2007 Gold Stars.