AUSTIN — Lupe Valdez made headlines when she announced her resignation as the Sheriff of Dallas County to throw her hat in the ring to become the next Governor of Texas.
Valdez already has a strong backing among some democratic groups and appeared on the national stage when she spoke during the 2016 National Democratic Convention.
She sat down with KVUE Political Reporter Ashley Goudeau to discuss her campaign.
Tell our viewers a little bit about yourself and why you want to be the next governor of Texas.
Valdez: "I came from humble beginnings. I'm the eighth child of migrant workers and I got an education, then I went to the military for a little while, then I worked as a federal agent and then I became the Sheriff of Dallas County. For the last 13 years, I've been the Sheriff of Dallas County. Now, that department happens to be the seventh largest department in the United States, so it's no small department that we're handling. And of course, I was a little disappointed at the last session. There seemed to be a lot of fear and continual, continued attempts to divide us more. I think Texas should be about connecting us together. We all know we have differences. We have a lot of differences, but we have to try to continue to work together with our differences. And we have a lot of common things. So we need to try to work together on the common areas so that we can come out with better solutions for the State of Texas."
Running a successful campaign is something you clearly know how to do. As you said, you were the sheriff for 13 years. You could have run for any office. Why did you choose to go from Sheriff to Governor?
Valdez: "The Governor sets the tone for the state. And the Governor leads the directions of the actions that are going to take place. And I think the tone of Texas needs a little attention right now, and I'm concerned about what comes out of legislation that is more about divisiveness: that is more about bringing fear: that is more about separating people. And I want to do exactly the opposite. I want to work for the common person -- for the common folks of Texas -- and let everybody feel like Texas is the place that the opportunities are as big as the Texas sky."
Do you feel as though there is a jump from Sheriff to Governor? What makes you qualified to be the Governor of Texas?
Valdez: "Well I don't think it's that big a jump. I had approximately 27 -- 2,800 employees and a budget of anywhere, during the 13 years, between $140 million to $153 million. The process is pretty much the same. Anytime you have a large amount of employee, you're going to have the issues that come up. And so, learning to work through the challenges with all the different personalities and directions and wants [it] helps us to learn how to help people negotiate toward coming to a common solution. And I think whether it's for this department or the State of Texas, once you know the process, once you know the procedure, it's the same -- pretty much the same steps. You help people come together to come up with a better solution."
Governor Greg Abbott has a very large war chest and he, right now, is seen as favorable among Texans because of his response to Hurricane Harvey. Why is now the time to challenge him?
Valdez: "Of course he had a good response to Hurricane Harvey. Who wouldn't? I mean how inhumane would we be if we didn't pay attention to what was going on in Houston and other parts, not just Houston. So of course, he had to have done that. But he's had a lot of other opportunities when he could have come in and responded more to the common person. There's been several other situations, not only in Houston. There were some in North Texas. There were several other situations and he -- we don't see him at other times except around election. So we need to start holding him accountable for the other things that he needs to be responsible for. And a lot of that is setting the tone for Texas that is welcoming to business and families and other folks."
What things in North Texas do you feel he should have had a better response to?
Valdez: "There were several tornadoes in North Texas that I think he should have made some effort to go up there and talk to the folks up there. He went to a small part where it was affected but there was a large part that was affected and I think he could have come in at that time and certainly address the people of Texas."
Before you can face Governor Abbott you would first have to win the Democratic primary. There are a total of nine candidates. Perhaps your strongest opponent, some would say, is Andrew White: the son of former Governor Mark White. What's your strategy for being successful in the Democratic primary?
Valdez: "Well we're doing that right now. We are going through a lot of the cities in Texas. I think this is our tenth or eleventh day that we are on the road because we want to meet the voters. We need to have areas where we can come and meet all the voters and what I found is they're energized. They're excited about this coming election, and so that gives me a lot of hope. I do think that I will have to stand a lot further along than Mr. White, and I think that's possible because I'm doing, reaching out to the people a lot. And I think I will continue to advance ahead of the other nine."
You haven't been on the campaign trail long, but one of the areas that you've been criticized in is a lack of policy, a lack of presenting policy ideas. Talk to me about that.
Valdez: "Sure and that was mentioned because there hadn't been anything up on the website. But I think if you look today or yesterday, you would have found that there are policies up on the website. And just like a strong Democrat, we're considering the things that are important to the majority of the people: jobs, education, medical, water. The things that are important to all of Texas. We're not going out after the things that are just important to the small group of folks that will donate well. We're going for the whole of Texas. The goodness of the Texas brand. So we're going to continue to do things that will have interest for everybody. As I said, we need to find common interests with each other. And common solutions to the challenges we all face."
"Going back to some of the things the Governor has done, as we challenge the cities, they have more and more issues. The urban areas have a lot of issues that should be taken care of by the state. The state should be taking on some of those challenges. And the way they take it on is dump it on the cities, here, you take that. Those unfunded mandates. How many of those did we get when the whole concept was you're not getting any. Yet the counties and the cities continue to get mandates on them that they have to find solutions for, and now he's tying their hands. He's saying find solutions and we won't help you. But we're going to tie your hands and you can't do anything. We need to look at things and bring the experts in. As the Governor, you set the tone, and you set the direction. I don't have the answers to everything, but I do know how to bring experts in together from both sides to find good solutions."
A Democrat hasn't won a statewide election in the State of Texas in a long time. Do you feel Texas is ready for that shift?
Valdez: "The people are ready for a change. And they're crying out for change -- going to the streets and crying out. We're ready for a new Texas. You know many years ago this same thing was happening, and Ann Richards came in and said we need to have a new direction and a new Texas and go after the interest of the common person. I think we're at that point again. I think we're at the point for a new Texas and a new direction for the common person. That doesn't mean that we leave others out, but we've got to include the rest."
Why are you the candidate to make that happen?
Valdez: "Politely, I'm strong enough and that's not what it's been called, but I have the courage and the strength and the experience to go out in Texas and bring the message that the change will happen as soon as we all get into the voting. Texas is not a red state. It's a non-voting state. And why do we continually try to suppress the voting? Because everybody knows that if the common people continue to vote there will not be another red state, purple or whatever. We need to let the common person have a voice and I'm the candidate to provide the common person with a voice."
When people see you, some think about what it would mean if you became Governor. You'd be the first Latina, openly-gay governor.
Valdez: "You know, it's not about being the first. It's about saying enough. It's not about being the first; it's about saying we haven't had this in Texas. Isn't it about time? We need to let the folks determine what Texas is, and again, by saying the first, that brings the attention to me. That's not what we need. We need to say this hasn't happened in Texas. Isn't it about time that it does. We need to have a common person that represents a whole bunch of individuals. And so, it's not the first, it's necessary."
Are there any final thoughts you have for our viewers?
Valdez: "We need to get out and vote, and I'm the person you should be voting for."