AUSTIN -- Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez has filed paperwork to become a candidate for governor in the March Democratic primary.
“I’m in,” said Valdez. “I’m running for Texas governor. I’ve dedicated my life to defending Texas and I’m not done yet.”
She announced her run Wednesday during a press conference at the Texas Democratic Party headquarters in Austin.
“Like so many hardworking Texans, I know it’s tough deciding between buying food, finding a decent place to live, and setting aside money for college tuition. Opportunity in Texas ought to be as big as this great state, but it is out of reach for far too many, that’s why I’m running for Texas Governor,” she added. “I’m a proud Texas Democrat. I believe good government can make people’s lives better, and I intend to do just that.”
Valdez, 70, is an Army veteran and was a former agent for the Department of Homeland Security before becoming Dallas’ sheriff 13 years ago.
But she has now stepped up to do what many Texas Democrats did not dare, run against Governor Greg Abbott.
He often polls as the most popular politician in Texas and already has more than $40 million with which to campaign.
“Abbott may have the money. We’re going to have the people,” added Valdez.
That’s a goal easier said than done. It’s an understatement to call her a long shot. For years, Democrats haven’t been able to get within 20-points or so of Republican candidates.
“She’s got to get Democrats in the state to transfer the intense negative feelings they have for Donald Trump into enthusiasm for her campaign,” said Dr. James Henson, who runs the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin.
Abbott made no public comment about this potential challenger in the general election, but his campaign did reveal that it was just endorsed by the Dallas Police Association – the largest law enforcement group in the county where Valdez was sheriff.
Valdez dismissed that endorsement saying it was not reflective of the entire group, only leadership.
“If you see Abbott playing in the Democratic races at all before March, you’re watching a governor try to choose his opponent. If Abbott is swinging hard at one opponent and not the other six, you know who he’d rather not run against,” said Ross Ramsey, co-founder and executive editor of the Texas Tribune.
Valdez immediately becomes the highest profile Democratic candidate for a party that has seemingly had difficulty recruiting someone to challenge Abbott.
She would not say how much money she needs to raise to be competitive, providing she survives the March 2018 primary.
“I don’t think anyone thinks it’s going to be easy. But I think the time is now. I think people are fed up with a small amount of people running the show,” said Shannon Perri, a Valdez supporter.
Simultaneously, as Valdez filed the official paperwork to become a statewide candidate, she also sent a letter of resignation to the Dallas County Commissioners. They will now appoint an interim sheriff until her replacement is elected.
The sheriff's department added its own statement: "The department thanks her for serving as our Sheriff for the last 13 years. We wish her well as she enters the next phase in her career. The Sheriff’s Department will continue to run as usual and serve the citizens of Dallas County during this time of transition."
Valdez attacked Abbott on Wednesday for supporting the bathroom bill. Still, she faces an uphill battle in a statewide race for Texas’ highest office. Valdez lacks money not to mention that few voters outside Dallas really know her.
In 1994, George W. Bush defeated Ann Richards, the last Democratic Governor. Former state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, was thought to be a credible challenger to Abbott after Rick Perry left the seat open in 2012. But Davis lost to Abbott by 20-points.
In the coming weeks, she will start traveling the state to introduce herself to Texans not to mention begin fundraising.
Valdez, 70, was first elected in 2004.
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