Austin — Early voting in the mid-term election begins next week. The former Dallas County Sheriff, Lupe Valdez, is hoping to become the first Democrat to win a statewide election in 24 years. She's challenging the incumbent, Republican Governor Greg Abbott. In Texas This Week, Valdez sat down with Ashley Goudeau to discuss her campaign.
Ashley Goudeau: Let's begin by telling our viewers a little bit about yourself and why you want to be the next Governor of Texas.
Lupe Valdez: "Well, people continue to struggle. And they're having a harder and harder time making ends meet while the current Governor takes care of a certain group. And this group continues to do very well. They continue to make the money they need while the rest of Texas continues to need help: public education, health care, jobs that are, all across the board. These things are important to Texans, and that's not happening. I think the Governor has been in office way too long, and he's lost touch with reality."
Goudeau: You had a very successful career as the former Sheriff of Dallas County. Being the sheriff of a county and running the entire state are two different beasts if you will. What do you feel makes you qualified for this position?
Valdez: "Well, I'm, I'm a veteran. I was a federal agent for over 20 years. And of course the Sheriff of Dallas County. I had over 2,700 employees and I had a budget of over $150 million. Pardon me, a hundred, yeah, $150 million. So all that does is prepare you for the next step. In everything we've done, we've been preparing for the next step and I'm prepared to take over the government of Texas."
Goudeau: Texas has not had a Democrat win a statewide election since the 90s.
Valdez: "It's about time."
Goudeau: You feel it's about time, what makes you say that?
Valdez: "Well, you know we're going all over Texas and the energy that you see in this, what you consider, red counties, you know all these folks come out and they often look at each other and go 'I didn't know you were a Democrat.' You know -- so all these -- the energy is all over Texas and they're coming out, and they're showing that they want a change for Texas. Texas is ready for a change."
Goudeau: Is this a time where you feel like it is just time for a Democrat or do you feel like there's something about Gov. Greg Abbott that made you want to challenge him?
Valdez: "Look, last session they spent all their time on bathroom bills and show me your papers bill -- nothing but hate and intolerance. So what happened to public education? What happened to health care? What happened to infrastructure? I call it smoke and mirrors. We're doing all these smoke and mirrors so we won't have to deal with the real issues. The real issues are difficult to deal with, and it's going to take discussions and compromise and working back and forth to make it happen. But it's so much easier to put a bunch of nonsense out there, and that way we'll spend the whole time on this and we won't have to do anything. Four years ago, they were talking about the same thing: education, teachers. And what did they get done? Nothing. And now they're doing the same thing again. They're talking about teachers and education. You know it's just smoke and mirrors, so they can get elected and go on doing almost nothing. So we need to get back to what's important to Texas."
Goudeau: I think that when you travel around Texas, and certainly in Austin, when you talk to people, one of their big concerns is property taxes. People are being taxed out of their homes. There's a lot of frustration. There was a lot of talk in the last legislative session about decreasing how much cities and counties can increase the rate without having an election. Where do you stand on that idea?
Valdez: "Well, first of all, you can't talk about property taxes without talking about education and health care. If you look at your property taxes, the two biggest issues are education and hospitals. Now, these are two things that we can do something about, yet we've chosen not to do it. In the last ten years, our current governors and our current legislature have continued to cut education and what happens to the local government? It puts the load on them. They have to do something about it if they want a decent education. The state needs to pay its fair share. One of the rules for the state is that they provide public education. And what are we doing? We're just dumping it down. So and when that happens, your property taxes are going to go up because you want a decent school district in your area. This state needs to pick up its load instead of dropping how much they're putting in; they should be adding. And they just announced, they're going to take away $3 billion more. That's not going to help your property taxes. We need to go back and make education a priority and let the state fund some of that so that the load won't be so much on the local government."
Goudeau: It's almost easy to say we should put more funding toward public education. Where are you going to get that money from?
Valdez: "That's another easy one. I mean nothing is easy. But, you know, the budget is the moral document of the state. We make the decision what our priorities are going to be. The last ten years, our priority has not been education. We talked about doing Pre-K, yet we chose and pick who gets Pre-K. You have to apply; and if I say it's okay, you get Pre-K. That's not the way it should work. It should be across the board. Everybody should get universal Pre-K. How you start in education is how you're going to end. So we need to make sure that all our folks start well in education. Education is an equalizer. We need to have decent public education in order to have a decent economy in the future. We need to take care of our children now so that they can continue to want to learn and have the economy they need to continue this state."
Goudeau: But -- obviously Texas doesn't have an unlimited budget. So where in the budget would you like to take funding to reallocate those dollars toward education?
Valdez: "There are several areas we can do. To begin with, there's something called the Equal and Uniform tax loop -- loophole. It's called the Equal and Uniform, and it's about businesses and how they appraise themselves -- literally. You can't appraise yourself and your property but the businesses can. They decide what their appraisal is. They'll tell the county one thing and go to the bank and tell them something else. That loophole needs to end. There's over $5 billion in that loophole that can be brought in pretty soon. And then natural gas. You know, in the beginning, we needed to give several of these businesses a break so they could stabilize themselves and grow. They've done it. Let's take away those $400 million. There's almost $5.5 billion right there, there are other areas we can look at. New resources: wind and sun. There's new resources. And whatever we decide to do with gambling, marijuana or anything else, we can look at those resources."
Goudeau: What about health care? Texas has the highest rate of uninsured people in the country. What would you like to see when it comes to healthcare?
Valdez: "Well, the first thing that we need to do is accept the Medicaid expansion. I don't know if you're familiar -- the Medicaid expansion are funds that we have sent to D.C., and D.C. says we can send you these funds back from Medicaid and what do we do? We choose not to accept them. The excuse they use is that 'Well, we're going to add some more funds. We'll need to put some percentage in.' But we're already doing that. It's your taxes and the emergency rooms. Again, if you look at your taxes, school and hospitals, and we're already paying that, so why don't we accept the $10 billion a year and do something about healthcare, including the rural areas.
The rural areas become a medical desert, yet they have to go two or three hours to get decent health care. We should be able to put the clinics back, put the hospitals back in the rural areas so that they can get help right there. The two things that are important in urban or rural -- whether Democrat or Republican, whatever ethnic group, whatever economic base -- is public education and healthcare. We need to pay attention to the things that are important to Texas not our special projects."
Goudeau: Provided Texas is able to do what you suggest when it comes to education and health care, are there then additional things that you think we should do to address property taxes or do you feel those two factors would then be sufficient?
Valdez: "Well, if you look at your taxes, those are over 50 percent. So, as a matter of fact, I think they're close to 75 percent. So if you take care of those, that's going to lower the property tax. That's going to help. And right now, my opponent continues saying 'We haven't raised taxes.' Well, all they've done is push it down the line so that somebody else can raise the taxes. You know they pat each other on the back, wink an eye and say we haven't raised taxes. No, you just made it possible so that, nobody, so that it's impossible for the cities and counties not to raise taxes. You know that's not helping Texas. That's just pushing it down to somebody else. We should do what we can to help all of Texas."
Goudeau: Immigration is obviously a federal issue, not a state issue but there are things that some argue can be done in Texas. Especially when we saw what happened with SB4 as an action that could be taken. What would you like to see done to address immigration on a state level?
Valdez: "Well, first of all, let me tell you, I am one of the many law enforcement officers that went and said this is a bad bill. There was a lot of us from almost every major city. And almost every major law enforcement went and said to the legislators 'This is a bad bill. This is going to do nothing to solve crime.' They sold it as something to bring security to the neighborhood when all it brought was fear into the neighborhood. There is crime not being reported because they're afraid. And even if they're citizens, they're afraid they're going to get picked on, so they don't report the crime. What does that do to the perpetrator? Oh, they love that. They love that. We should be about helping people, not hurting them. We should be about causing no harm. And this only brings more harm into the neighborhood. One of the first things we'll do when I'm Governor is get rid of that SB4. And if they continue to say it brings safety and security, show the data. Where's the data? There's no data. It's just mouthing off. There's no proof, there's nothing except 'I said so'. That's not proof enough."
Goudeau: When we talk about gun control, that is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot. The tragedies at Santa Fe High School and Sutherland Springs, they restarted that conversation here in Texas, and there's been a lot of talk among lawmakers about how to better protect students in schools. What are your thoughts there because Governor Greg Abbott has expressed support for teachers being able to be armed and more school marshals. What are your thoughts?
Valdez: "Well, first of all, how long do they spend in school? They also go to the park, to church, to open spaces. Are we not interested in protecting them there? Do we just want to fortify the school and we don't invest in education. We want to arm the teachers, but we don't pay them as the professionals that they are. My opponent believes that gun violence is inevitable. I don't. I've been a gun owner for over 40 years. Just about all of my careers have been to where you have to have a gun. So there's a difference between gun ownership and gun violence. My opponent doesn't seem to know that: seems to think that they're one in the same. I also believe that no one, absolutely no one, who cannot settle their differences through other than violence should ever carry a gun -- and universal background check. What you've done in the past is a strong indication of what you're going to do in the future. So we need to look at that. Red flag laws. Close the boyfriend loophole. The red flag laws were meant so that someone doesn't harm themselves or others. And so we say we don't want the red flag laws? So you want them to hurt themselves and others? No, we want to be able to make sure they don't hurt themselves and others. And, of course, all of this is done with due process. You just don't come and say we're going to take your guns away. That's not even... that's not even reasonable. It's all with due process. If you are more than likely to cause harm, I don't want to be around you. You know? And we certainly don't want you to have all types of weapons."
Goudeau: Do you have any final thoughts for our viewers on why they should elect you to be the next Governor of Texas?
Valdez: "Well, first of all, don't forget the bus trip. We're having a 50 city, 10 day bus trip and the old saying 'in a town near you'. We'll be coming around so that we can have the opportunity to talk to people. But I also think it's time for a change in Texas. We need to start paying attention to the everyday Texan. It feels as if the everyday Texan is ignored in everything we do, and we just take care of our friends and family. Last session was so strong on bathroom bills, on show me your papers bill, it's what this group wants and nobody else matters. We need to include all of Texas so that we can all feel safe and educated and healthy. Good business wants a healthy and educated workforce. This is what we need to do, whether it be through pubic education or university or trade schools, we need to continue to bring healthy and educated folks so that they can continue with good business."
KVUE News has reached out to Governor Greg Abbott's campaign about an opportunity for an interview. We hope to bring it to you when it happens.
For more information on the 2018 midterm election, click here.