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Lupe Valdez Did Not Have a Good Weekend

The former Dallas County sheriff turned Democratic gubernatorial candidate gets dinged by the state's two biggest newspapers and the Houston GLBT Political Caucus.
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It’s not quite time to print the “Lupe Fiasco” headline somebody out there must be itching to use, but over the weekend the state’s two biggest newspapers endorsed Andrew White over former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez in the Democratic primary for governor.

It’s more good news for White, the Houston businessman and son of the late Gov. Mark White, who announced this morning that he raised more than $1.1 million for his campaign in the first three weeks of January—counting, it should be said, a $1 million loan from himself. Valdez’s campaign hasn’t yet reported its January fundraising, but was outpaced by White by more than $150,000 in December.

That looks bad enough for Valdez. The Dallas Morning News, the former sheriff’s hometown newspaper, bringing out the knives in its endorsement of White looks worse:

We had high hopes for former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, the only candidate who’s held elective office, having been elected in 2004 and re-elected four times since, and someone we’ve supported locally at various times.  We were disappointed by her gross unfamiliarity with state issues, however, 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 $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.

The Houston Chronicle was more measured, citing only how Valdez “stumbled over flooding questions” in an interview with its editorial board. It’s clear why the Houston paper would place a premium on the candidates’ stances on flooding, and it’s telling that the Chronicle wasted so little ink on Valdez. The Chronicle also describes White as the Democrat who will attract the most voters in a general election. It compares him to George W. Bush (meant here as a good thing), a political scion in a “common sense” package.

Perhaps more striking, the Houston GLBT Political Caucus endorsed White over Valdez, the country’s first openly gay Latina sheriff. Apparently, and you’ll notice this has become something of a running theme of Valdez’s campaign, she bombed the interview.

Valdez has picked up endorsements from Planned Parenthood, the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, and the AFL-CIO, and she may still have the support of many state Democrats, but the story of her campaign has so far been illustrated by anemic fundraising, a shaky grasp on some of the issues, shoddy organization, and poor messaging.

Whoever the Democrats offer up against Gov. Greg Abbott has their work cut out for them. The relatively popular Abbott has more than $43 million ready to go for his campaign and is the Republican incumbent in a state that hasn’t elected a Democrat to statewide office in close to a quarter-century. Texas Democrats would likely be content just to find a gubernatorial candidate that won’t embarrass themselves too badly between now and the inevitable shellacking in November. If Valdez can’t even sway the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, how would she fare in a debate with Abbott?

Still, it’s a crowded Democratic field, and they hold primary elections for a reason. Nominating Valdez, whose personal story alone Democrats hope has the potential to motivate Latino voters and the party’s progressive base, would at least make for a more compelling narrative than rallying behind a straight white businessman with a powerful daddy. The former sheriff has time left to make that case to voters, if she can only put together a coherent case.

The deadline to register to vote in the March primary election is today. Early voting runs from Feb. 20 through March 2, with election day on March 6.

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