The two Democrats vying for the chance to face Gov. Greg Abbott in November met Friday night in Austin for their only debate of the campaign. Former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and Houston entrepreneur Andrew White will face the voters in a runoff on May 22.
Dallas Morning News political writer Gromer Jeffers moderated the debate. Jeffers says supporters of both candidates could find reasons to be happy with the results.
“I think Valdez had to accomplish less than White,” Jeffers says. “When you think about the makeup of the primary electorate, she enjoys a lead after [the initial primary election] on March 6 and quite frankly, her politics, which are viewed to be more liberal, are better in line with the base of the Democratic party – at least those who vote in primaries – than Andrew White.”
Jeffers says Valdez needed to reassure progressives about her policies on immigration. And he says that she addressed the issues most important to her Latino supporters.
“It’s kind of a generation divide there,” Jeffers says. “The younger immigration activists are still upset with her, and no matter what she did at the debate, they still would have been upset with her.”
White is viewed by some Democrats as too conservative, Jeffers says, particularly on the issue of abortion. In the debate, Jeffers asked if White would work to repeal Texas’ most conservative abortion restrictions. After some struggle to find an answer, the candidate said he would.
“The question is – the same with Valdez – if you’re predisposed to be against him, do you believe him? Do you still trust him.”
Jeffers says it’s likely each candidate spoke effectively to his or her base of supporters, but it’s unclear whether and minds were changed by the debate.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.