Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez is running for governor. The sheriff will resign her post Wednesday morning before officially kicking off her campaign at Texas Democratic Party headquarters in Austin.
"Like so many hardworking Texans, I know it's tough deciding between buying food, finding a decent place to live, and setting aside money for college tuition," Valdez said in a statement announcing her run. "Opportunity in Texas ought to be as big as this great state, but it is out of reach for far too many. That's why I'm running for governor."
Valdez is the first high-profile Democratic candidate to enter the race to unseat Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. If elected, Valdez would be Texas' third female governor, first Hispanic governor and first LGBTQ governor. The sheriff won a fourth term in her Dallas County office in 2016.
First elected during Dallas County's Democratic wave in 2004, Valdez has stepped up her statewide and national profiles over the last two years. In 2015, she picked a fight with Abbott when she tweaked Dallas County's jail policies. That winter, Valdez stated 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."
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Valdez never repealed her policy — as of earlier this year, she hadn't turned down a detainer request because of it, either — but her actions, along with those of Travis County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.
In 2016, Valdez gave a Thursday night, prime-time speech at the Democratic National Convention, introducing the families of several police officers killed on the job. As she did, she decried rhetoric from now-President Donald Trump that she viewed as divisive.
"Violence is not the answer," she said. "Yelling, screaming and calling each other names is not going to do it. Talking within your own group in your language only your group understands leads nowhere. We have to start listening to each other."
After Valdez' resignation, the Dallas County Commissioners Court will select a temporary replacement sheriff. Both Dallas County Democrats and Republicans will hold a primary for the office in March 2018, and Valdez's permanent replacement will be selected by voters in November.