Despite Early Stumbles, Lupe Valdez Leads Democratic Field Headed into Gubernatorial Runoff

Lupe Valdez speaks to the media on March 7.
Lupe Valdez speaks to the media on March 7. Stephen Young
Former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez may not have been the best fundraiser or the smoothest campaigner during the 2018's Democratic gubernatorial primary, but she did enough, and had enough name recognition, to ensure that she'll have at least a few more months to get better on the trail. Valdez received more than 40 percent of the vote during Tuesday's first round of primary voting, sending her into a runoff against Houston businessman Andrew White as the favorite to take on incumbent Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in the general election.

"Today Texas Democrats got the first chance to stand up against hate, and we stood up in great numbers," Valdez told a crowd of mostly campaign volunteers and fellow candidates at the Dallas County Democratic Party's watch party at the Dallasite bar in East Dallas.

Since announcing her candidacy in December, Valdez has struggled to raise money, maintaining just $58,000 in her campaign account as of the last finance report deadline of Feb. 26. White, the son of former Democratic Texas Gov. Mark White, had almost $950,000 available on the same report, although he did loan his campaign $1 million earlier this year.

Trailing Valdez by more than 10 points as the final votes were counted Tuesday night, White leaned on the Bible for inspiration.

"We beat the expectations tonight, and we’re going to do it again in May, and we’re going to do it again in November," White said at his watch party in Houston. "This is going to be a David-versus-Goliath fight — and remember, David won that fight. And we’re going to win this one too."

Valdez said Tuesday that she believed the grass-roots effort that carried her to her lead over White in the first round of voting would carry her through her runoff against White, as well.

“We’re going to do more and work harder and we’re going to ask all these people to help us even more," Valdez said.

Elsewhere in Dallas County — In Dallas' most competitive congressional primary, former NFL player and Barack Obama appointee Colin Allred led a field of challengers seeking to take on longtime GOP incumbent Pete Sessions in November. With all 200 of the precincts in the 32nd Congressional District reporting early Wednesday morning, Allred had nearly 39 percent of the vote.

Lillian Salerno, a small business owner who worked in Obama's Department of Agriculture, finished second with just more than 18 percent, ahead of former broadcast journalist Brett Shipp and Hillary Clinton aide Ed Meier, to claim the second spot in May's runoff election. Meier finished in fourth place despite leading the field in fundraising.

In the Dallas County district attorney's race, longtime state District Judge John Creuzot bested former judge Elizabeth Frizell by about 500 votes, despite Frizell's extensive support from grass-roots activists, including criminal justice reform advocate Shaun King.

Marian Brown, appointed interim sheriff by the Dallas County Commissioner's Court, easily won a spot on the November ballot, getting almost 60 percent of the vote in a three-way Democratic race.

While most Dallas incumbents fared well Tuesday, state Rep. Robert Alonzo, brother of former Dallas City Council member Monica Alonzo, lost his primary by 25 points to Jessica Gonzalez, a former legislative aide in the U.S. House and law clerk in the U.S. Department of Civil Rights-Voting Rights Division

In the Republican primary, Dallas County state Rep. Jason Villalba's re-election bid ended early, with a loss to Lisa Luby Ryan. Ryan ran to the right of Villalba, who's crossed the hard right over the last couple of legislative sessions by pushing for stronger vaccine requirements for kids attending Texas public schools and better employment protections for LGBTQ workers in the state.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young