Not Pur­ple Yet

Valdez’s gover­nor bid il­lus­trates Dems’ weak­ness

The Dallas Morning News - - Nation & World -

News that Lupe Valdez is the state Demo­cratic op­er­a­tion’s pick for gover­nor says way more about the party than it does about the Dal­las County sher­iff.

This Hail Mary, just five days be­fore the fil­ing dead­line, il­lus­trates how far Democrats are from turn­ing Texas even a tinge pur­ple.

You may care about this be­cause you’re a Demo­crat. But if you’re a Repub­li­can, you should care, too: A strong two-party sys­tem ben­e­fits ev­ery­one be­cause it breeds re­spect and co­op­er­a­tion, not scorched-earth law­mak­ing. It re­quires can­di­dates to ad­dress the is­sues that mat­ter — and work even harder for vot­ers’ sup­port.

Nowhere is a ro­bust race more im­por­tant than for the state’s top job. The Dal­las County sher­iff is not the can­di­date to make that hap­pen.

Cer­tainly, Valdez is one of the most pop­u­lar Democrats in Dal­las County, and she’s been a trail­blazer — the only gay, fe­male His­panic sher­iff in the state. Be­fore she was elected to that job, she served as an Army cap­tain and worked as a fed­eral agent for Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion and Home­land Se­cu­rity. She has a long record of ser­vice.

But those at­tributes alone are un­likely to con­vince vot­ers that she has the lead­er­ship to oc­cupy the gover­nor’s of­fice.

Valdez also en­ters the race with noth­ing ap­proach­ing the name recog­ni­tion and fundrais­ing clout of the Democrats’ last gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­date, Wendy Davis.

Even so, Repub­li­can Greg Ab­bott swamped Davis by 20 per­cent­age points in the gen­eral elec­tion. Now, four years later, Ab­bott has the ad­di­tional ad­van­tage of be­ing the in­cum­bent with a mas­sive head start on the cam­paign trail, boast­ing a $40 mil­lion-plus war chest.

We rec­om­mended Valdez in her in­au­gu­ral sher­iff ’s race and have oc­ca­sion­ally sided with her. For in­stance, she, too, is a critic of the sanc­tu­ary cities law that Ab­bott en­thu­si­as­ti­cally pushed for and later signed.

How­ever, as close ob­servers of Valdez’s 12 years as sher­iff, we would as­sess her ten­ure as merely ad­e­quate.

She even­tu­ally cleaned up chronic prob­lems in the Dal­las County Jail sys­tem, but the Com­mis­sion­ers Court, par­tic­u­larly Com­mis­sioner John Wi­ley Price, played a huge role in those im­prove­ments.

Most con­cern­ing has been Valdez’s trans­parency-re­sis­tant ten­den­cies, es­pe­cially in re­gard to pris­oner deaths and other vi­o­lent in­ci­dents.

Just a year ago, we were stunned by her an­swer when we asked why the me­dia is not made aware of es­caped pris­on­ers or deaths in cus­tody, once deputies dis­cover a prob­lem. She re­sponded that it of­ten takes hours for deputies to no­tify her and im­plied that this wasn’t a prob­lem be­cause re­porters will find out through un­of­fi­cial sources.

We will be in­ter­ested to see how Valdez han­dles the tough ques­tions that are sure to dog her on the cam­paign trail.

The Demo­cratic Party’s dif­fi­culty in fi­nal­iz­ing a can­di­date for the state’s top job speaks loudly to its chal­lenges.

It’s too bad some­one along the lines of ris­ing stars Julián and Joaquín Cas­tro or state Rep. Rafael Anchía didn’t take the plunge. In ad­di­tion to six lit­tle-known can­di­dates who filed prior to Valdez, An­drew White, the son of late Gov. Mark White, an­nounced his can­di­dacy Thurs­day in Hous­ton.

Democrats have a lot of hard work — and soul-search­ing — in front of them if they are ever to pro­vide a slate of for­mi­da­ble statewide can­di­dates and give vot­ers a real chance for two-party gov­er­nance.

Staff Photo

What she said “I think we’re go­ing to raise what­ever money’s nec­es­sary. I don’t be­lieve that we need 40, 60, 90 bazil­lion dol­lars. [Gov. Greg] Ab­bott may have the money — we’re go­ing to have the peo­ple.” Lupe Valdez, Demo­cratic can­di­date for gover­nor

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