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Walle previously worked for the area’s Democratic Congressman Gene Green, who grew disgusted with Bailey when the representative failed to show for a key vote on a controversial mid-decade congressional redistricting plan. Walle accuses Bailey of missing more than 300 votes. The district is more than 70 percent Latino and records some of the lowest turnouts in the state. It’s expected that the surge in interest in the presidential primary, including efforts by the unions to turn out Latinos for Sen. Hillary Clinton, will help Walle. In addition to the pioneering collective bargaining provision, Bailey touts his role in bringing water and sewer service for the first time to several neighborhoods in his district, as well as new sidewalks and more money for crime prevention. Walle hammers him on his tacit support for a Republican agenda that has cost children health insurance and underfunded schools. “[Voters] know leadership in Austin has failed them and my opponent has been propping up the leadership.” Bailey casts his support for Craddick in terms of pragmatism. “I am trying to get the best deal I can for people until Democrats are in the majority,” he says. SCHOOL IS OUT After several weeks of daring U.S. Senate candidate Rick Noriega, 50, to a debate, his Democratic rival for the seat, Ray McMurrey, finally got his wish on February 13. It was about 45 minutes into their debate on the UT campus before Noriega mentioned McMurrey. Instead, Noriega stuck to talking points blasting the Republican incumbent, Sen. John Cornyn, treating the occasion as a practice run for a general election debate. McMurrey, 42, a Corpus Christi teacher, presented himself as the candidate for change. He modeled himself after former U.S. Sen. Ralph Yarborough, a champion of civil rights and Great Society legislation. “I am a citizen candidate that is running against politics as usual,” said McMurrey. Noriega’s debating skills were stilted at best. The state representative wandered off into the rhetorical wilderness at times, finding his way back only when speaking about his extensive military experience. McMurrey seemed like a debating whiz in comparison. But then, McMurrey makes his living speaking in front of people \(he teaches The debate centered on eight questions, ranging from when to leave Iraq to health care reform. A lieutenant colonel in the Texas Army National Guard, Noriega fought in Afghanistan and helped with aid operations in Houston after Katrina. The audience cheered wildly after he answered a question about his timeline for the Iraq war: “Not one more drop of American blood is going to alter Iraq,” he said. Noriega promised to work toward bringing back the troops in stages, but did not specify a timetable. McMurrey received his share of applause when he said he would advocate bringing 10,000 to 15,000 troops home every month for the next 15 months. Despite scoring some debating points, McMurrey doesn’t have Noriega’s grassroots support and political rsum. As of mid-February, McMurrey had no political endorsements and only $16,000 in his campaign account. Noriega, a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 1999, has slogged through political events and appearances for the past year. He has also received more than 150 endorsements from national and state Democratic groups and legislators. Now if his presentation could only live up to his rsum. PICTURE THIS New Mexico took nine days to count its presidential primary ballots. Texans are nervously looking to their neighboring state and wondering what record voter turnout will portend here. While it might not be as bad as the Land of Enchantment mark our words: There will be trouble on March 4. And bet on the problems adding further fuel to the fight over a proposed voter ID law that would require people to show photo identification before voting. A nine-hour, special midterm meeting of the House Elections Committee held on January 26 already demonstrated that Texas Republicans and Democrats are digging in for another party-line battle over voter ID in 2009. Since the end of the last session, when a voter ID bill narrowly died in the Senate, supporters have been rounding up election fraud anecdotes from county clerks and district attorneys around the state to back up their case. Tyler Republican Rep. Leo Berman’s committee showcased some of that work. And once again Democratic Reps. Rafael Anchia of Dallas and Lon Burnam of Fort Worth pointed out there was little evidence of fraud at polling places \(most problems involved mailin ballot scams or vote-harvesting at Always politely ignored in the public debate is the nationwide GOP push for voter ID, which many suspect is coming from the top of the hierarchical party. While Texas Republicans never shied away from turning voting mechanisms to their favor \(Picasso would love the our little state is just one among many where alleged voter fraud suddenly has politicians hot and bothered. A Supreme Court decision on an Indiana voter ID lawtougher even than proposals by Berman and Terrell Republican Rep. Betty Brownis expected this summer. While those against the photo ID mandate point to the law’s potential to disenfranchise legal voters, the court is considering whether people must have already been denied their right to vote before they can challenge the law. The one sign of possible progress at the committee hearing was a proposal to let voters submit a signature verification if they don’t have an ID. Anchia, who’s leading the Democratic charge against voter ID, called it an interesting proposal, but worried that signature-backup in a House bill could easily be stripped later in the process. “We’d need assurances from the Senate to ensure it would come back without voter-suppression amendments,” he said after the meeting. FEBRUARY 22, 2008 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5