Amid what was generally regarded as an encouraging year for Texas Democrats, one contest stood out as a disappointment for progressives: Lupe Valdez’s 13-point loss to Greg Abbott in the governor’s race. This was always going to be a difficult contest for Valdez; Abbott is a popular governor who was running against an openly gay Latina. Yet there’s little doubt that one reason Valdez did so poorly is that she was an ill-prepared candidate with a tenuous grasp of the issues. Here are a few lowlights from her primary and general campaigns.
A Jolt to Her System
At a forum hosted by a get-out-the-Latino-vote organization, Valdez flubbed an answer to a question posed by a high school student about her record of cooperating with ICE while she served as sheriff. The Latino group, Jolt Texas, then endorsed her non-Latino opponent, Andrew White.
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Valdez also managed to turn off the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, which endorsed White, who, to the best of anyone’s knowledge, is neither gay nor lesbian nor bisexual nor transgender. “We absolutely, positively wanted to endorse Lupe,” the caucus said, “but she didn’t do as well as we would have liked in the interview.”
Valdez’s hometown paper, the Dallas Morning News, endorsed Houstonian White after interviewing both of them, saying, “We were disappointed by her gross unfamiliarity with state issues . . . particularly an almost incoherent attempt to discuss state financing. At one point, Valdez, 70, volunteered that she didn’t know whether the state was spending $8 million or $8 billion on border control. (It’s closer to $800 million.) On college tuition, she first suggested the Legislature ‘and stakeholders’ should set tuition rates, but then contradicted herself, and she later said the state should move to reduce local property tax rates, apparently unaware of those set by local jurisdictions.”
Editorial Bored, the Sequel
The Houston Chronicle, likewise, chose hometown boy White over Valdez, noting that she “stumbled” over questions about flooding. In fact, the Chronicle seemed to indicate that Valdez wasn’t even its second choice in the crowded Democratic primary.
Taxes? What Taxes?
Two days after Valdez prevailed in the Democratic primary runoff, the Houston Chronicle reported that she owed more than $12,000 in property taxes. Valdez’s spokesman unconvincingly tried to engage in some verbal jujitsu by arguing that “under Greg Abbott’s failed leadership, property taxes are unpredictable and burdensome for Texans everywhere, including Sheriff Lupe Valdez”—even though millions of Texans who aren’t running for governor manage to pay their property taxes on time.
Yeah, I’m the Taxman. Wait, No I’m Not
Valdez told the Texas Tribune that she was open to the possibility of raising taxes and then, just a few hours later, she told another reporter the exact opposite. “No, I would not look at that,” she said. “I’d have to lose a leg before I do that, and I certainly don’t want to lose a leg.” By the end of the campaign, a leg was just about the only thing she hadn’t lost.