On the UT campus Wednesday night, Ray McMurrey and Rick Noriega finally had a debate. Sadly, it has not yet been made available as an MP3 anywhere that I’ve been able to find.
Paul Burka of Texas Monthly attended the debate and called it a win for McMurrey. You can read his summary here, but the gist is that Noriega never wanted to have this debate to begin with because it would only give more legitimacy and exposure to McMurrey’s campaign.
As a result, by one account, Noriega didn’t even acknowledge McMurrey until 40 minutes in to the debate. Instead, he was directing his responses towards the presumptive Republican candidate, John Cornyn. It’s a decent strategy, but according to Burka:
"By this time it was pretty clear that Noriega did not want to engage
with McMurrey. As the frontrunner, he knew better than to rise to the
bait. As a result, he didn’t appear to have a lot of energy. McMurrey
took awhile to get comfortable, in, but once he did, he was the
aggressor, the more energetic and feistier candidate."
A student who attended the debate also had these thoughts, posted at Burnt Orange Report:
"Why did Noriega address Cornyn the
majority of the debate? I found that to be patronizing."
According to Burka, midway through the debate, the audience began to come around to McMurrey:
It was about this point in the debate that the audience began to warm
to McMurrey, and his answers began to get some enthusiastic applause.
And in the end:
I thought that McMurrey won the debate, because the expectations were
minimal, and yet he was able to win over the audience with his
feistiness and sincerity. But he won by default. Noriega knew that he
had nothing to gain from the debate, and it seemed as if his game plan
was just to get through the evening without commiting a gaffe or losing
message discipline by explaining his relationship with Reliant and
Center Point. This was an exhibition game for Noriega. He and Cornyn
will play for keeps in the fall.
Jeff Versteeg, another McMurrey supporter, has a good run-down of the debate here where you can read about specific policy differences regarding Iraq and Health Care.
But here’s the bottom line, in all likelihood, Noriega will get the most votes on March 4th. What remains to be seen is whether or not McMurrey will find himself in a runoff. There are two other candidates on the ballot, neither of whom are serious contenders. With four names on the ballot, it’s possible that no one candidate will receive over 50% of the vote resulting in a runoff between the top two vote getters.
Ray is doing a great job of getting his name and his message in front of as many voters as he can on a small budget, and as the feedback following the debate shows, he’s continuing to win more and more people over.