The speculation is now confirmed – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, has a serious Democratic challenger. She has been the highest-ranking law enforcement officer in Dallas County since she was elected in 2004. Among the central questions is whether enough people beyond the metroplex know the name Lupe Valdez – and what she stands for.
Chris Connelly, a reporter for KERA News in Dallas, says Valdez has racked up a number of firsts in her career. She was the first female, Hispanic, lesbian sheriff in the nation. She was born to migrant farm worker parents, and is the youngest of eight children.
“She went to college, she joined the military [and] became an Army captain,” Connelly says. “She had a decades long federal law enforcement career, including as an ICE agent – Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”
Connelly says Valdez ran for Dallas County sheriff as an outsider. As sheriff, he says, Valdez cleaned up the department and the county jail system. She is known as a good manager, he says.
Valdez and Abbott have disagreed over immigration issues. In 2015, Valdez reduced the amount of time the jail system would hold prisoners for federal immigration authorities. This year, she strongly opposed SB 4, the state’s so-called sanctuary cities law.
“She really rejected some of the rhetoric around [SB 4,] saying it criminalized all undocumented immigrants, which she didn’t think was fair,” Connelly says.
Connelly says Valdez does not run a “sanctuary county in Dallas. She complies with most of those federal immigration requests.” He says her disagreement with state and federal policies is whether they paint all immigrants with a broad brush.
Valdez must resign her office to run for governor. If she doesn’t defeat Abbott, she could choose to run for a different office. Connelly says some have speculated she could run for mayor of Dallas.
Even if she doesn’t win against Greg Abbott, Connelly says “she potentially has the ability to energize the Democratic base, which is a big deal in a midterm, when Democratic voters don’t turn out as well as they do during presidential elections.”
Written by Shelly Brisbin.