The Abbott campaign may show Lupe Valdez `no mercy,’ but will Latino voters say, `No más.’

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?

Kelly Clarkson.

Friedrich Nietzche.
From Quora:
Charlene Dargay, word maven

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.

xxxx

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.

New York Times

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.”

Bluster, perhaps.

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.

xxxxxx

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.

 

 

 

 

Lupe Valdez talks Latinx activists into backing the White guy for governor

(Photo by Ken Herman)

Good Monday Austin:

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.

(The Valdez campaign issued a statement Monday night in which she apologized for her performance at Jolt.)

Valdez ought to be worried, and if she isn’t, Texas Democrats ought to be worried about the prospect of nominating a candidate for governor on the increasingly questionable premise that her name and identity alone guarantee that she will be the stronger general election candidate or, at any rate, the candidate best able to help draw an increased Hispanic turnout in November, which is the raison d’être of Jolt.

Jolt is relatively new (here is an early story about Jolt from Gus Bova at the Texas Observer), not that well-known and has no electoral track record yet, though it has made an impression with its creative organizing efforts, including the Quinceañera at the Capitol celebration of resistance to SB 4 last year that they said reached 50 million Americans through social media.

Jolt has ambitions, according to its founder and executive director Cristina Tzintzun, of mobilizing 30,000 Hispanic voters who don’t usually vote and bringing them to the polls this year.

And, on Sunday, Jolt’s first endorsement town hall generated newspaper headlines across the state that were bad for Valdez.

There’s my story:

Young Hispanic activists ‘Jolt’ Valdez campaign by backing Andrew White

In a stunner, Jolt, a year-old organization of young Hispanic Texans with ambitions of spurring a surge in turnout this year, endorsed Andrew White over Lupe Valdez for the Democratic nomination for governor Sunday after a town hall at which Valdez failed to effectively answer questions about whether her record as Dallas County sheriff was “anti-immigrant.”

There’s Immigration questions put governor hopeful Lupe Valdez on hot seat at young Latino voters’ forum from James Barragán in the Dallas Morning News.

AUSTIN — A group of young Latino voters has endorsed Andrew White for governor instead of his opponent, former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, after she struggled to answer questions about her record on immigration during a forum Sunday.

There’s Latino voting group snubs Lupe Valdez, backs Andrew White for governor by Peggy Fikac in the San Antonio Express-News.

AUSTIN — After expressing dissatisfaction with Lupe Valdez’s answer when she was quizzed about her allegedly “anti-immigrant” policies as Dallas County sheriff, a Latino voting group Sunday instead endorsed Houston businessman Andrew White in the Democratic runoff for governor.

There’s  Austin town hall turns heated for Dems Valdez, White by the Houston Chronicle’s Mike Ward.

AUSTIN – The two Democrats running for Texas governor were confronted Sunday during a town hall forum over their positions involving immigration, putting them on the defensive at an event that was expected to be friendly.

Injecting drama into a race that so far has mostly been a snoozer, former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez was questioned about why she cooperated with federal immigration detainers while she was in charge of the Dallas County Jail.

The forum that attracted about 200 people was staged Sunday by Jolt The Vote, a civic-engagement organization working to mobilize Latino millennials in the 2018 elections. Only Democratic statewide candidates appeared.

Later in the day, hours after the forum, Jolt group endorsed White over Valdez, the first Latina to run for Texas governor, saying he had shown his “commitment to improving the lives of Latinos.” The group also endorsed Beto O’Rourke for Texas Senate for the same reason.

And there’s the Texas Tribune story – Democratic statewide candidates get tough questions from Latino youth – from Patrick Svitek:

 Karla Quinoñes did not mince words as she asked the first question to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Lupe Valdez.

“Ms. Valdez, you were sheriff of Dallas County for many years, and it seems that your legacy was one of supporting anti-immigrant policies that actually expanded ICE enforcement,” said Quinoñes, a Dallas high school student, posing a series of pointed questions about Valdez’s cooperation with the federal agency and intentions if elected governor. “Why should we trust you today?” 

The less-than-direct answer that followed from Valdez did not appear to satisfy Quinoñes and the group she represents — Jolt Texas, which was created last year to mobilize young Latinos in turning the state blue. And before the end of the afternoon, Valdez had lost another endorsement to her runoff rival, Democrat Andrew White, after coming across as ill-prepared or -informed.

Ay yi yi

As Svitek wrote, the endorsement of White was probably largely due to Valdez’s inability to successfully answer the mutli-pronged question from Quinoñes.

As I wrote:

It was a question from Karla Quiñones, an 18-year-0ld senior at W.T. White High School in Dallas, that crystallized ongoing concerns about Valdez’s record in the Latino activist community, and her inability to offer a crisp and clear response.

“Miss Valdez,” said Quiñones, the daughter of Mexican immigrants who grew up watching Valdez coverage on Univision, the Spanish-language television network, “you were the sheriff of Dallas County for many years, and it seems that your legacy was one of supporting anti-immigrant policies that actually expanded ICE enforcement.”

“Given that, one, the Dallas community walked out of your forum with (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) saying that you turned your backs on them; two, you complied with every ICE request for warrantless ICE detentions even when other counties, like Travis County, were taking a courageous stand against them … why should we trust you today?”

Valdez thanked Quiñones for a “chance to explain.”

“Of course, look at me, I’m going to fight for as much immigration as I can,” Valdez said, detailing her vigorous opposition to Senate Bill 4, the ban on so-called sanctuary cities passed by the Legislature and signed into law last year by Gov. Greg Abbott.

Let’s pause here.

Valdez has taken to introducing folks at her appearances to the “Greg Abbott tracker” in their midst – the young man with the nice earrings who records things she has to say that might find their way into Abbott campaign ads.

It’s a funny, and well-received, when she tells her audience to welcome him. But her generosity of spirit should not extend to giving him what he is looking for.

Of course, look at me, I’m going to fight for as much immigration as I can.

One could fairly hear Abbott strategist Dave Carney’s YEEHAH! echoing from his lair in Hancock, New Hampshire, off Skatutakee Mountain, the 1667 miles to Austin, Texas, above the low hum of Abbott Oompa Loompas working through the night to churn out a new line of 100 percent cotton T-shirts with an image of Lupe Valdez and the words, Of course, look at me, I’m going to fight for as much immigration as I can.

It’s not just that that’s not a policy. It’s that it’s exactly what Texas Republicans think, or their leaders would like them to think, is the actual Democratic thought process on immigration – fight for as much immigration as possible to help turn the state blue over time.

Two weekends ago, the last time I saw Valdez in Austin, she introduced her Abbott tracker to the crowd and then, after brief remarks, had this to say in answer to a question about debates.

(Photo by AMANDA VOISARD)

Asked by a Democratic activist at a campaign event at North Austin brewpub Black Star Co-op on Friday night if she was going to debate White, Valdez replied, “I’m open to any kind of debate, but my staff are the ones who are going to take care of all of that.”

Pressed for a firmer answer, Valdez said, “You know there’s only certain decisions that they let me make, and most of them have to do with policy. … I can’t even tell you where I’ll be in the next few days. They’ll tell me. So they’re taking care of that.”

Abbott is primed to run against Valdez.

As John Moritz wrote in early April in a piece that appeared in the Caller Times under the headline, Greg Abbott declares Lupe Valdez a winner in the May 22 Democratic runoff for governor. The Democratic runoff for Texas governor is more than a month away, but the Republican incumbent is eager to cast Democrat Lupe Valdez as pro-sanctuary cities.

AUSTIN – Texas Democrats needn’t bother voting in the May 22 runoff because Republican Gov. Greg Abbott already has declared former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez the winner over Houston businessman Andrew White.

“The next 7 months will be a battle between @LupeValdez and me about whether or not Texas will secure our border and protect our sovereignty,” the governor said in a tweet Wednesday night. “It’s about whether sanctuary cities will remain banned or be allowed.”

Abbott, with the power of incumbency running in a solid red state, will be the prohibitive favorite no matter who the Democrats choose next month. But the tweet that came in response to Valdez’s statement castigating President Donald Trump’s plans for troops on the Texas-Mexico border suggests Abbott likes the idea of making sanctuary cities and illegal immigration Topic One for the general election campaign.

Valdez was happy to engage with Abbott on the issue.

The fact that Valdez find herself whipsawed between Abbott’s claims that she is too soft on immigration and the activist’s charges that she is too hard-line, is a dilemma that perhaps cannot be avoided. But she could attempt to make the case that she is charting a reasonable middle ground.

But her responses Sunday fail to reveal a coherent through-line.

Returning to Valdez’s response to Quiñones’ question Sunday, from my story:

She talked about the May 2015 community engagement meeting in Dallas at which immigrant activists confronted Sarah Saldaña, director of ICE, over what crimes constituted just cause for deportation.

“I brought in the director of ICE so they could come and explain the whole situation that was going on, and there were a couple of people who were upset with me because I couldn’t explain what was going on, and they literally got up and turned their backs and walked away,” Valdez said. “The thing that was uncomfortable about that was there were many people there that needed to hear what they needed to do, what they could do, and the director of ICE was standing right there to tell them. But because of that, they weren’t able to hear the direction that could have been given and the paths that they could take.”

OK. So in the course of providing an answer that may have figured importantly in Jolt’s turning its back on her, Valdez explained that back in 2015, there were a couple of people who were upset with me because I couldn’t explain what was going on, and they literally got up and turned their backs and walked away.” 

Things didn’t get any better after the speech when Valdez was confronted by a gaggle of reporters who wanted to follow up on Quiñones’ question.

After the town hall, Valdez was asked about Quiñones’ question suggesting she had an “anti-immigrant” record.

“I think it was one person’s opinion,” Valdez said, recalling her vocal opposition to SB 4.

“As you recall, the governor actually sent me what I call nastygrams because of my decision of defense of the people that were being deported and separated from their parents,” Valdez said.

Valdez was also asked about a 2015 federal civil rights lawsuit brought by Dallas County jail inmates against the county and her as sheriff, claiming they were being illegally detained because of “immigration holds” placed on them for ICE.

Valdez said the lawsuit was “filed against immigration being able to take people from the jail; the lawsuit was against the authority of ICE to be able to deport.”

“The lawsuit is still going on, so I have to be real careful how I discuss that,” Valdez said.

Asked about Quiñones’ question of whether she deserves the trust of the Latino community, Valdez said, “I think there’s a misunderstanding of the track record. I went to fight SB 4 way before anybody else.”

With that, Valdez told the scrum of reporters, “I’ve given you some answers. You wanted some answers, and I’ve given them to you. OK, now let us do what we love to do best and deal with some of the voters and go on to some of the other things we’ve got to do.”

The bad/good news for Valdez was that, from my limited experience, Sunday’s was one of her better performances. She was more lively and animated and had more rhetorical threads than I had seen before.

She certainly has way more endorsements than White, including at least three state senators, 24 state representatives, and U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro, D-San Antonio.

The Democratic nomination for governor, of course, could have been Joaquín’s or his twin brother, Julián’s for the taking but Joaquín chose to stay in Congress and Julián is exploring a run for president, which is apparently less daunting than running statewide in Texas.

For her fellow Democratic politicians, endorsing Valdez is the safest course, the path-of-least-resistance option.

But, for Jolt, the political calculation is  different.

It brought to mind what Mike Webb, president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus told Ken Herman in February about the organization’s decision to endorse White, who is straight, over Valdez, who made history as a lesbian sheriff.

 

“Let’s be clear: Our members wanted to endorse Valdez,” said Mike Webb, Houston GLBT caucus president. “There’s nothing that would make us more proud than electing a member of our own community. However, we also have an expectation in our community to endorse the person who will do the best job. And our members just thought that Andrew White would do the best job.”

Webb also said, “Our members were convinced he would be best positioned to fight back hard against the aggressive bigotry we are getting from our governor” and that on “questions of deportation of immigrants, (Valdez’s) answers just weren’t very empathetic.”

Jolt’s founder, Tzintzun, who’s mother is Mexican and father is white, is originally from Columbus, Ohio, but moved to Texas when she was 21.

“My parents told me that it had the three things I love the most: year-round sunshine, lots of Mexicans and vegan food,” Tzintzun said.

The last seems a questionable draw, but she lives in Austin.

Before Jolt, Tzintzun spent 12 years building the Workers Defense Project .

Tzintzun is 36. Jolt is intended to mobilize Latinx voters younger than she is.

Founder and Executive Director Cristina Tzintzun said they chose the name Jolt “because when Latinos come out to vote, we are going to be a shock to the political system, not only of Texas but of the entire country.”

For Tzintzun and Jolt, there is little incentive to follow the safer course, the path-of-least-resistance option of endorsing Valdez if they don’t really believe she would best advance their goals.

At 18, Quiñones, grew up with Valdez as a public figure in her hometown.

“It was always good seeing her on TV. Wow, someone who looked like me was in such a high position.”

Energized to get involved in politics by the 2016 election,Quiñones got in touch with Jolt and became the  president of her high school chapter, which meant she would be among 16 leaders of the organization to vote on its endorsement this weekend.

Assigned the task of posing a question to Valdez, Quiñones did her research and delivered her accusatory question in a very even manner. When I spoke to her after the town hall, she said she didn’t think that Valdez had answered her question: “I think she kind of veered off.”

(JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

White is making the argument that he is a more capable candidate who will acquit himself better as the party’s nominee for governor, that he will stand the ticket – topped by Beto O’Rourke  and followed by the candidate for governor – in better stead. He is also making the case that, as long a shot as it may be for either of them, he stands a better chance of defeating Abbott than Valdez.

As he told the town hall Sunday, there is a blue wave building and it has already elected a moderate Democrat to the Senate in a special election in Alabama, and a moderate Democrat to Congress in a special election in Pennsylvania.

“And,” White said, “our turn is next.”

Electing a middle-of-the road white guy might not seem to be the most compelling argument to win over Latinx activists in Texas in 2018. But, on Sunday, thanks to Lupe Valdez, it carried the day.

 

 

 

 

 

Knocked for a Lupe: Morning News, Chronicle, Houston GLBT Caucus snub Valdez for Andrew White

(Mark Matson for American-Statesman) Democratic gubernatorial candidates Lupe Valdez (L) and Andrew White participated in a question and answer session Saturday afternoon at the AFL-CIO convention on Jan. 18 in Austin.

 

Good morning Austin:

I  recently wrote a profile of Lupe Valdez, who stepped down as Dallas County sheriff  at the end of last year to seek the Democratic nomination for governor.

As I wrote then:

So far her sole paid, all-purpose campaign aide is Kiefer Odell, a 2016 graduate of the University of Texas, where he studied government and was head of the University Democrats.

Lupe Valdez, Democratic candidate for Texas governor talks with her campaign aide Kiefer Odell at her home and campaign headquarters in Dallas, Texas on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018.

Valdez said she’s interviewing people for campaign manager, but noted that there will be more talent available after the March 6 primary.

First she has to win the primary, in which, out of a field of nine candidates, her prime rival is Andrew White, a Houston businessman and the son of former Gov. Mark White, making his first run for elective office.

“We are going to win the primary.” Valdez told me matter-of-factly.

I checked in with Odell yesterday to see if they had added any staff to the campaign.

“Yes!” he replied by text. “We’ve added two finance staffers recently and rounded out our consulting team with mail, media and fundraising consultants and a pollster.”

And what about a campaign manager?

“We’re interviewing for the right fit,” he texted back.

Well, not to put too fine a point on it, but it may already be too late.

The reason I had gotten in touch with Odell on Sunday was because Valdez had a weekend that may have  done irreparable damage to her campaign.

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.

Houston businessman Andrew White has a famous last name but it is his knowledge of the state’s complex challenges that make him far and away the better choice in the crowded nine-way Democratic primary for governor.

White, 45, whose father was the late Texas Gov. Mark White, also displays a collaborative demeanor and centrist approach that would make him well-suited to lead the state and work with what most likely will remain a GOP-controlled Texas Legislature.

White blames the state’s school finance and property tax problems on state lawmakers who have failed to provide adequate state funding. He offers a multi-pronged solution that includes closing a “$5 billion loophole” that gives builders a tax break at the expense of homeowners, shifting nearly $1 billion in state spending for border security to help finance public education, and expanding Medicaid to draw down additional federal dollars.

He says university freshmen should be able to pay the same amount in tuition each year, if they graduate on time, rather than be subjected to destabilizing rate escalations. And he shows both pragmatism and political courage in advocating for more toll roads, given the fact that transportation spending by lawmakers hasn’t kept up with population growth. His caveat: Tolls should expire when construction costs are repaid.

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.

In the meantime, it will take whatever meager wind there was out of her sails. It will set the tone of coverage from here on out. Reporters writing about the race will feel obliged to test her knowledge of the issues. And, even if she acquits herself more ably from here on out, she can’t undo this first impression, which was not limited to the Morning News editorial.

In its editorial, the Chronicle wrote that:

We’re not exactly fans of political dynasties, but White ultimately won our endorsement with his answer to one obvious question. He’s the only Democratic gubernatorial candidate who seems to have given serious thought to the state government’s role in protecting Gulf Coast residents from flooding. While the other candidates who spoke to our editorial board offered only vague thoughts about this critical issue, White specifically discussed the need for a third reservoir in west Harris County and the importance of leveraging federal funds to build a coastal barrier system.

After Hurricane Harvey, flood control should be the top concern voters in the Houston area consider when they cast their ballots. Maybe White has a grasp of the issue only because he lives here and he piloted his boat around inundated neighborhoods rescuing flood victims. But any serious candidate for governor speaking to people in Houston should have good answers for basic questions about this topic.

Here’s how seriously we take flooding issues. If not for his fuzzy answer to this predictable question, we might have thrown our support to another candidate. Adrian Ocegueda runs a private equity firm in Dallas, and he was an economic policy adviser to the mayor of El Paso. Beyond his views on priorities like education and health care, Ocegueda brings up big issues that aren’t on any other candidate’s radar. He’s concerned Texas isn’t doing enough to train workers who are about to lose their jobs as technology displaces human labor. He even has the courage to touch the third rail of Texas politics, suggesting we need to seriously discuss introducing a state income tax. Ocegueda is a conspicuously smart and impressive candidate who has little or no chance of becoming governor, but he deserves serious consideration if he decides to run for another office.

Lupe Valdez, the former sheriff of Dallas County, is arguably the most high profile contender in this primary, but she also stumbled over flooding questions. Also on the ballot are Jeffrey Payne, a Dallas business owner; Joe Mumbach, a Houston audio-video technician making his first run for public office; and Grady Yarbrough, a retired educator and perennial candidate for statewide office. Three other candidates – Tom Wakely, James Jolly Clark and Cedric Davis Sr. – did not appear before our editorial board.

Next month, Democrats must pick a standard bearer with the best chance of winning votes not only for him or herself, but also for candidates running in down-ballot races. They would be wise to choose Andrew White as their nominee for Texas governor.

In other words, Valdez, who gets a single sentence in their editorial, isn’t even the Chronicle’s second choice among the nine Democratic candidates for governor.

And, then there was this.

As Mike Ward wrote in the Chronicle:

AUSTIN — Democrat Andrew White on Saturday won the endorsement of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus over primary rivals who are gay.

White is straight.

White, a Houston entrepreneur and son of the late Gov. Mark White,  is among nine Democrats who are running in the March 6 primary for a chance to face incumbent Republican Greg Abbott in the November general election.

Among the others are gay Dallas businessman Jeffrey Payne and former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, who is lesbian.

“I’m humbled by and unbelievably grateful for the Houston GLBT Political Caucus’ endorsement,” White said in a statement.

“Mark my words: I will fight hard for full LGBTQ equality as governor and come out swinging against any efforts to discriminate. It’s past time to treat all Texans fairly and equally under the law.”

 The Houston GLBT Political Caucus, billed as the oldest equality rights organization in the South, has been endorsing candidates since 1975.
Valdez was in Houston, which has a large gay voting population, on Saturday campaigning. Payne has been in Houston several times courting votes, as well, since he started his campaign.

I watched a live-stream of the endorsement vote by some 400 members of the caucus gathered at a Houston church.

A man – I don’t know his name – presented the recommendation from the screening meeting to endorse White.

“He interviewed very well,” he said of White. “We grilled him and we were very satisfied with his answers.”

And, of Valdez: “We absolutely, positively wanted to endorse Lupe, but she didn’t do as we as we would have liked in the interview.”

Yesterday afternoon, I spoke with Mike Webb, the president of the caucus, about the choice of White over Valdez.

The screening committee and the general membership, he said, “felt that White would do a better job in fighting back against (the actions) targeted against the LGBT community now by the current governor, and quite frankly, Valdez did not reassure us that she would be able to, or even had knowledge of the position of the office, to do so.”

This comes off earlier stumbles out of the gate by Valdez.

Lupe Valdez, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, marches from City Hall to the Capitol for the 45th Texas Roe v Wade Rally on Saturday January 20, 2018. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

From Ross Ramsey in the Texas Tribune on Jan. 22.

Every once in a while, you have to repeat a lesson for the new kids in class.

Last week, Democrat Lupe Valdez told one interviewer — The Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith — that if elected the state’s next governor, she would not close the door to tax increases if they turn out to be necessary. “We keep the door open to a lot of stuff,” Valdez said. “Come on in.”

Just a few hours later, she told another interviewer — Karina Kling of Spectrum News — that tax hikes are off the table. “No, I would not look at that,” Valdez said. “I’d have to lose a leg before I do that and I certainly don’t want to lose a leg.”

She must’ve seen something scary in between those conversations. Or, more likely, she heard from a herd of handlers.

Odell last night sent me the following statement from Valdez, responding to the newspaper endorsements of White: “While we’re disappointed we can’t win them all, I’m proud to have the support of progressive clubs across the state, Stonewall Democrat chapters in Houston, San Antonio and Dallas, the Texas AFL-CIO, Planned Parenthood, the Tejano Democrats, and others that’ll be rolling out shortly.”

 

Before I met Valdez in Dallas to interview her for the profile, I wondered whether she was lured into the race at the last minute by a state Democratic Party which, while technically neutral, clearly preferred having Lupe Valdez, the Hispanic lesbian sheriff of Dallas County, at the top of the ticket, and not a middle-of-the-road white guy named White.

I came away from that interview convinced that Valdez wanted to run for governor and was eager, at 70, to take on a new challenge. She has an impressive life story, and people who know her well really like and admire her. But, she also came across as preternaturally calm and confident for someone setting out on such an audacious journey so late in the day.

Lupe Valdez, Democratic candidate for Texas governor is shown here with her dogs Vinny and Madge at her home and campaign headquarters in Dallas, Texas on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. The photograph is from the Big Bend area from one of her trips.

As I wrote:

“She’s very Zen,” said Susan Hays, an Austin attorney who chaired the Dallas County Democratic Party when Valdez first ran for sheriff in 2004. “I’ve described her as the tortoise that wins the race. She’s not very flashy, but she keeps on moving.”

Perhaps, but Texas is a big state, Valdez is little known outside of Dallas County, and the hare in this race has a huge head start. Greg Abbott first won election as governor in 2014, defeating former state Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth by 20 points. Before that, he served three terms as attorney general and six years on the Texas Supreme Court. He has his own epic story of overcoming adversity — he was just out of law school when a tree limb fell on him as he jogged, smashing his spine and leaving him a paraplegic.

And, at $43 million and counting, he has amassed more money in his campaign account than any candidate in Texas history.

“How can I compete with that?” Valdez asked a friend. “They said, `Either you’ll get the money, or you won’t need that much.’”

By the end of 2017, Valdez had raised less than $50,000 for her campaign, which she launched Dec. 6, a startlingly small haul. In a Jan. 18 conversation with Evan Smith of the Texas Tribune, she said she was now raising $300 to $500 a day. But even if Abbott stopped fundraising today, and Valdez maxes out at $500 a day every day of the year, she wouldn’t catch up to Abbott until the middle of the 23rd century.

Lupe Valdez, Democratic candidate for Texas governor is shown here with her dog Vinny as she checks campaign texts at her home and campaign headquarters in Dallas, Texas on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018.

In a state in which Democratic hopes hinge, in part, on inspiring Latino turnout, Lupe Valdez is a good name — unambiguously Hispanic.

“We had only one candidate win in 2002,” Hays told me. It was a county court seat won by Sally Montgomery, a party-switching incumbent who eked out a victory.

But Democrats that year came excruciatingly close in two district judge contests with Latina candidates: Sarah Saldaña, who would go on to be director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the Obama administration, and who got 49.49 percent of the vote in a well-financed campaign, and Lena Levario, who got 49.29 percent and “didn’t spend a dime.”

“When Lupe showed up and said, `I want to run for sheriff (in 2004),’ I’m like,`Yes. You can win, because your name is Lupe Valdez,” Hays said.

“The pendulum was swinging,” Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, who oversees the jail, Valdez’s prime responsibility sheriff’s office, told me. “Dallas County was in the throes of transition and she caught the right train.”

When I was writing the profile I spoke with Garry Mauro, the former land commissioner and among the last class of Democrats elected statewide in 1994, who said, at that moment, Valdez was probably right that she would win the nomination.

“You have two very good candidates,” said Mauro, the Democratic candidate for governor against George W. Bush in 1998, of Valdez and White, but, “there’s an inevitability, because of demographics and experience, about a Dallas woman Hispanic sheriff winning unless Andrew White can create a compelling reason for Democrats to vote for him.”

This past weekend, White and Valdez, the Dallas Morning News, the Houston Chronicle and the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, may have done just that.

Andrew White, Houston investor and the son of former Gov. Mark White is interviewed in his home in Houston, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. White is running for Texas governor as a democrat candidate. ( Marie D. De Jesus / Houston Chronicle )

“We had a great weekend,” White told me Sunday afternoon.

This morning, White’s campaign announced that it had raised more than $1.1 million in the first three weeks of January, loaning his campaign $1 million, with an additional $138,632 coming from donors.