Four-term Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez is considering challenging Texas Gov. Greg Abbott next November. If she throws her hat in the ring, she'll be the first major Democratic contender for the governor's mansion in 2018. If Valdez wins, she'll be Texas' third female governor, first Hispanic governor and first LGBTQ governor.
"Too much of one thing corrupts, and I'm a strong believer in a two-party system," Valdez, who said she's in the "exploratory process" of planning a run, told the Texas Tribune. "I'm hoping that enough people are seeing that too much one-sided is not healthy for Texas."
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Valdez, first elected to the sheriff's office in 2004 as part of a Democratic wave in Dallas County that year, has a little more than a month to make her decision before the state's election filing window closes Dec. 11. So far, no Democrat with significant name recognition has said that he or she will take on Abbott, who has more than $40 million in his campaign war chest.
After more than a decade in the sheriff's office, Valdez began building her statewide profile in 2015, when she clashed with Abbott and conservatives in Austin. That winter, Valdez issued a policy stating that her office would no longer honor U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer requests for Dallas County Jail inmates who would otherwise be released on bail. When Abbott found out about the policy, he threatened Valdez with the loss of certain state funds if she didn't take back her directive. Valdez said at the time that it's essential that local law enforcement officers not act as de facto immigration agents.
"We have to maintain the trust of our community" in order to work with the community, she said. "We cannot maintain that trust if we are going around challenging and asking questions of everyone we approach. They would have questions about us and what our motives are."
Valdez never repealed her policy — as of earlier this year, she hadn't turned down a detainer request because of it, either — but her actions, along with those of Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez in 2017, spurred Abbott and the legislature to pass Senate Bill 4, Texas' so-called "sanctuary cities" bill. SB 4, currently on hold because of a legal challenge, threatens officials with removal from office if Texas' cities and local law enforcement agencies don't cooperate with federal immigration authorities.