Good morning Austin:
Lupe Valdez looked very, very happy last night.
And why not.
As they say, what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.
Who says that?
Answered Apr 12, 2016 · Author has 935 answers and 1.5m answer views
The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s original line was “Was mich nicht umbringt macht mich stärker.” The saying comes from the “Maxims and Arrows” section of Nietzsche’s book, Twilight of the the Idols (1888). It is usually translated into English as “what does not kill me makes me stronger.”
Nietzsche used a similar line in Ecce Homo (written 1888, published 1908), the last book he wrote before going completely insane. In the chapter entitled “Why I Am So Wise,” he wrote that a person who has “turned out well” could be recognized by certain attributes, such as a knack for exploiting bad accidents to his advantage. Regarding such a man, Nietzsche said: “What does not kill him makes him stronger.” (“Was ihn nicht umbringt, macht ihn stärker.”)
Today, English translations and variations of Nietzsche’s maxim are often used for ironic effect. But they are also frequently used in a positive way, to express optimism and determination in the face of adversity.
The race was closer than it should have been.
Andrew White, son of Gov. Mark White, but making his first run for elective office, proved to be a good candidate.
But, for the most part, Valdez’s undoing was mostly her own doing.
My first take on Valdez running for governor was that it was desperate, eleventh-hour (really 11:59 p.m.) gambit by the state party – which was officially neutral – to find a non-white, non-White candidate for governor after efforts to recruit a Castro-tier candidate failed.
Not so, said Valdez to me last week.
Let’s get something clear here. The party never asked me to run. Once I said I think I want to do this, they were excited, but they never asked me to run, never asked me to make my decision.
In January, when I went to Dallas to meet Valdez for the first time, I was impressed. Her life story is truly compelling and inspirational.
And, she’s simply an interesting person.
I thought she had potential as a candidate.
But the campaign never really took flight, and it kind of hit a low point when at the end of April she managed to lose the endorsement of Jolt, an organization of young Latino activists, to White.
From my First Reading: Lupe Valdez talks Latinx activists into backing the White guy for governor
As of today, thanks largely to the forces of political inertia, Lupe Valdez remains the favorite to win the May 22 runoff and become the Democratic candidate for governor in 2018.
But, steadily, bit by bit, Valdez appears determined to chip away at her lead.
On Sunday it was an appearance, along with rival Andrew White, Miguel Suazo, the Democratic Party’s candidate for land commissioner, and U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso,the party’s candidate for U.S. Senate, at a town hall put on by Jolt, a barely year-old organization intended to mobilize younger Latinos as a political force in Texas (note that both Suazo and O’Rourke are both running against Hispanic Republican incumbents in Land Commissioner George P. Bush and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.)
But somehow, on the strength – or weakness – of her performance, Valdez lost the endorsement of a passionate and energized group of Latinx (as I have learned, the gender-neutral term for Latinos/Latinas) Texans to a white man named White who is the son of a white man named Mark White who served as a centrist governor of Texas for one term from 1983 to 1987, and who is running in 2018 as a centrist Democrat for governor.
Earlier, back in February, I wrote another First Reading: Knocked for a Lupe: Morning News, Chronicle, Houston GLBT Caucus snub Valdez for Andrew White
It’s not like she had any chance of defeating Greg Abbott for governor to begin with. And I’m not saying that she won’t still end up being the Democratic nominee. But, after this weekend, that is less certain than it was before, and she is more likely to have to go to a runoff to secure the nomination.
But mostly, after this weekend, her chances of running a formidable campaign are severely diminished.
It’s not simply because the state’s two biggest newspapers endorsed Andrew White. It’s not just because the Houston GLBT Political Caucus chose White over Valdez, a groundbreaking lesbian sheriff. It’s because in each case, Valdez was found to be unprepared to be governor, or a good candidate for governor.
Most devastatingly, this is how the Dallas Morning News, her hometown paper, wrote of her in its endorsement of White.
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.
Those two paragraphs will be hard to recover from.
No matter what she does from here on out, they won’t go away.
White, in his own campaign, may choose to rely on the positive things the Dallas Morning News had to say about him.
But those lines about Valdez will haunt her campaign if she faces Greg Abbott. The ad writes itself: gross unfamiliarity with state issues … almost incoherent attempt to discuss state financing … didn’t know whether the state was spending $8 million or $8 billion on border control.
But last Wednesday I traveled to Laredo to see Valdez in the midst of a campaign tour across that overwhelmingly Latino stretch of Texas along the border, from end to end, where she overwhelmed White.
In Laredo, I saw the potential I had seen in that original interview realized.
Her bio was no longer just background. It was fresh and meaningful.
As I wrote:
White said it’s clear that Abbott sees Valdez as an easier mark and is focusing his attention on her in hopes of helping her win the nomination.
“He’s aware that I’m not the average person that has gone against him,” Valdez told the Statesman. “I think he’s just getting an early start. He’s starting earlier because he knows he’s got a challenge ahead of him. I’m not your everyday politician.”
But with an element of truth.
She may not have the Stanford and Harvard bona fides of the golden Castros.
But she speaks Spanish – it is essential to who she is – and she is, in her background, unlike any other candidate to have run for governor of Texas.
From my story:
LAREDO —Magda Gonzales has dreamt about Lupe Valdez.
In the dream, Valdez is campaigning in the border community of El Cenizo, a one-time colonia 16 miles south of Laredo where Gonzales lives, and Gonzales is vainly running all over the barely half-square-mile city of about 800 households trying to find Valdez and get a picture with her.
Wednesday night, at a lively rally at the Pan American Courts food truck park and beer garden in Laredo, Gonzales caught up with Valdez, 70, considered the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for governor, amid a final campaign swing that also took her to Corpus Christi, Kingsville, McAllen, El Paso and San Antonio. She is scheduled to end up Sunday at the Travis County Democratic Party Ice Cream Social at VFW Post 856 in Austin.
“Lupe’s story is like mine,” Gonzales said of growing up without sidewalks or indoor plumbing. “I said, `Yes, that’s the one.’ And Beto O’Rourke, he’s the one. He is so empathetic. He’s here, he’s there, he’s all over the place, and that’s what we need, people that are passionate.
But, despite her sometimes rough ride, Valdez’s appearance before a delighted crowd in Laredo is a reminder why she remains the favorite Tuesday and why, more than White, she has the potential to deliver crucial votes for O’Rourke and the rest of the ticket.
“We need to get the Latinos fired up and voting,” declared a fired-up Valdez. “My name is Lupe Valdez, and I have a voice, and I am going to put my name on that voice, and you are going to hear me very loud. We need to vote.”
At the Pan American Court, a cultural and political gathering spot, her audience seemed to love everything about Valdez — her recounting of her hardscrabble San Antonio beginnings as the eighth child of a family of migrant workers, her service in the military, as a federal agent for Customs and Homeland Security, her 13 years as the sheriff in Dallas County, her historic role as an out lesbian in Texas politics, and the way she weaves warmly remembered Spanish colloquialisms into her speeches.
“I can tell you that more people identify here with her than do with Beto, and I think it’s because she represents a cross section of everything that Laredo is kind of struggling to find,” said 23-year-old David Barrera, who recently organized a branch of the San Antonio nonprofit MOVE — Mobilize, Organize, Vote, Empower — in Laredo. “We love our vets. We respect our women. She’s Hispanic. It’s an interesting thing because I have not met anybody here who doesn’t like her – even the Republicans are like, `I like her.’”
Barrera, who founded the Webb County Young Democrats, will needle those Hispanic Republicans, telling them, “but she’s for abortion,” and he said they’ll respond, “Well, you can’t like everything about a person.”
“I think you’ve got a lot of people here who don’t know any other single candidate but who know who she is because of Hispanic media,” Barrera said. “You see a lot of coverage, especially here in a border town.”
Barrera was impressed when he walked with O’Rourke through a Laredo neighborhood during a campaign swing a couple of weeks ago with how he seamlessly moved back and forth between Spanish and English. But Valdez, he said, has a more intimate, organic way into the heart of voters here.
“I’ve heard Beto O’Rourke. He is such an eloquent orator, he has his points – A, B, C, D,” Barrera said. “She speaks very simply, very comfortably, but it resonates with her because she looks like somebody I grew up with. She looks like my grandmother, and I love my grandmother.”
“I just have to listen to her because if not, I’m going to get emotional because my grandmother didn’t get the chance to do X, Y and Z, because she was born into a machismo culture that held her down and she, to this day, still holds to those tenets,” Barrera said. But, he said, his grandmother has made it very clear, “I’m going to vote for her.
Valdez won Laredo’s Webb County, 81.5 percent to 18.5 percent..
If you wonder what the Abbott campaign would have done if White had somehow defeated Valdez, you need not wonder, per chief strategist Dave Carney last night.
But, Dave, what about Lupe?
But, embedded in the fun, there was this reflective moment
Well, with all the money in the world at your disposal, perhaps not.
But I would offer this caution
Four years ago, the Abbott campaign made much of the fact that his wife, Cecilia Abbott, would be the first Latina First Lady in Texas history.
The Abbott campaign also made great use of her mother in an ad.
From the campaign blurb about the ad:
For a frank assessment of a person’s character, look no further than his mother-in-law. Now, Texans have the opportunity to hear about Greg Abbott’s honesty, values and commitment to serving the people of Texas directly from his mother-in-law. Greg Abbott is proud of his multicultural family, and our campaign is proud to share their story with all Texans.
Wendy Davis was idolized by many of her admirers, but, for many Texans, she was a cold and aloof figure, and an ideal opponent for Abbott.
Lupe Valdez is not cold and not aloof. And beating up on her is going to be like beating up on a lot of Hispanic Texans’ grandmothers, only this one will fight back.
From my story Sunday:
Valdez expects the general election campaign to get ugly.
“He’s going to tear me down any way he can — this way and that way and that way and that way, he’s going to tear me down,” Valdez said of Abbott. “But when it’s over I’m still going to be standing.”
“‘It is going to be unpleasant,” Valdez said. “That’s the type of human being he is.”
Barring the very unforeseen, Lupe Valdez is not going to be elected governor, so her qualifications as a candidate are actually more important to Democrats this year than her qualifications to be governor, and, properly deployed, she could be an asset to the ticket, even, or maybe, especially if the Abbott campaign shows no mercy.
Valdez spoke in Laredo in front of light installation by local artist Poncho Santos – I Love U Chingos – a border take on Austin’s I love you so much wall, with chingos a Spanish expletive doing the work of so much.
Her crowd in Laredo that night loved Valdez chingos, and it was voters like them who’ saved Valdez’s campaign.
Which is why Lupe Valdez looked very, very happy last night.
And why not.