Dallas Sheriff Lupe Valdez announces she’s resigning to run for governor.
Dallas, TX - Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez turned from her law-enforcement job to the Democratic race for governor Wednesday, saying her life has prepared her
to be a voice for everyday Texans as she looks to secure the daunting challenge of taking on Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.
“Like so many Texans, I have lived the life where your day starts way before the sun rises. I was born the eighth child of migrant farmworkers. I grew up between San Antonio and distant fields in the north,” Valdez said.
“I know what it is to have to decide if food or rent will get the funds … But I also know the joy of sharing the little that we have with others,” she said. “I’m stepping up — estoy obligada — for Texas, for everybody’s fair shot to get ahead.”
Valdez’s announcement, coming days ahead of Monday’s filing deadline, was a fairly low-key event.
Rather than being celebrated by a huge crowd on her home turf, she was applauded by a smaller group at Texas Democratic Party headquarters near the Texas Capitol.
She spoke in a soft, measured tone while describing the personal story that brought her to this point, sprinkling Spanish in her remarks and answering questions in Spanish as well as English.
In this July 28, 2016, file photo, Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez speaks during the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Valdez, Texas' first Hispanic female sheriff, announced Wednesday that she will run against Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in 2018.
She ended questions from reporters by saying she had to catch a flight. Even though she said she had resigned as Dallas County sheriff, she explained that “until an appropriate person that has good management takes over, I’m still there.”
Her Wednesday announcement came a week after a confusing episode in which she denied news reports that she already had submitted her resignation.
In a statement Wednesday, she said she was notifying the Dallas County Commissioners Court that morning of her decision to step down, paving the way for an interim sheriff and the election of a successor.
The run by Valdez will set up a high-profile contested Democratic primary for governor marked by the face-off with Houston businessman Andrew White, son of the late Democratic former Gov. Mark White. He is scheduled to formally announce Thursday in Houston.
Reacting to Valdez’s announcement, White’s campaign said he believes it will bring more attention to the governor's race, to the benefit of the Democratic Party and Texas.
The two embody the different messages pushed by Democrats. Some say Valdez is perfectly positioned to carry an unflinching progressive message. She is openly gay and, according to her website, the only female Hispanic sheriff in the United States. She already has tangled with Abbott over so-called sanctuary city policies.
White, by contrast, has said he doesn’t care if he’s described as a moderate Republican or a conservative Democrat, contending that extremes on either side of the political spectrum don’t fit Texas voters’ views.
There also are several lesser-known hopefuls.
Whoever wins the Democratic nomination will face an uphill battle against Abbott, who has more than $40 million in his campaign war chest by last count and trounced Democrat Wendy Davis in 2014. A Democrat hasn’t won election for statewide office in Texas in more than two decades.
Valdez was born in San Antonio and graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School, her campaign said, but her parents were migrant farmworkers so the family traveled for their work. She emphasizes that background, and presents her positions as a contrast to those espoused by Abbott.
In 2015, she said she wouldn’t comply with all federal requests to detain unauthorized immigrants past their release date if the immigrants only were accused of minor offenses. She said later that year that she hadn’t yet refused any detainer requests, but Abbott still slammed the policy as dangerous.
Abbott senior adviser Dave Carney reacted with Twitter snark to word of the announcement by Valdez. He re-tweeted a story about it with the comment, “Never doubt the power of prayer! #BarrelScrapingWorks.”
The Abbott campaign also released a video poking fun at Democrats’ quest for a serious candidate, comparing it to an online dating search filled with rejection and saying they’ve “fielded a team of far-left liberals.”
“Regardless of who Texas Democrats ultimately nominate for governor, our campaign will be prepared to run on Governor Abbott’s record and policies that have led to more jobs created in Texas in the past year than any other state, the best business climate in America and record low unemployment,” said Abbott campaign spokesman John Wittman.
Abbott’s campaign also took more serious note of the new challenge, touting an endorsement by the Dallas Police Association political action committee.
“I am committed to working alongside our law enforcement officers over the next four years to improve public safety and to make sure that the men and women in law enforcement have the support and protection that they need to carry out their duties,” Abbott said in a statement, citing his “deep respect” for law enforcement officers.
Valdez said the Dallas endorsement doesn’t mean that rank-and-file association members all support the action.
Rep. Chris Turner of Grand Prairie, chair of the Texas House Democratic Caucus, said it’s good for Democrats to have a choice in their primary.
“Certainly it is uphill,” Turner said of the looming campaign against Abbott by the winner of the Democratic nomination, “given that the governor starts out with a $40 million head start, among other reasons. That said, 13 months ago, I would not have predicted that Donald Trump would be elected president of the United States. Anyone who tries to make an ironclad prediction on politics probably shouldn’t be talking.”
David Crockett, chair of the political science department at Trinity University, said of the prospects of a Democrat ousting Abbott, “Hopeless might be strong, but pretty close.
“It’s still a red state, and he (Abbott) has still been pretty popular. It looks like some of the craziness of the last year hasn’t really hurt him,” Crockett said.
Still, he said, the Democrats need to make the effort, even without the top names that some had hoped would lead the charge, such as U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio.
“It’s better to run someone than no one at all,” Crockett said. “That looks just utterly pathetic. ... If you don’t run anyone at all, what happens is you cede ground to third parties in Texas.”