This week was the best of Lupe Valdez's gubernatorial campaign. The former Dallas County sheriff announced her highest fundraising numbers since kicking off her campaign in November, picked up a key endorsement, and earned some poll numbers that are confusing but not any kind of a death knell. For a campaign that's struggled to find its footing during Texas' abbreviated primary season, it's something to build on during the sprint to Tuesday's election.
According to campaign finance reports, Valdez raised almost $67,000 during the reporting period that covers the end of January and most of February, including a $20,000 personal loan. She has $57,902 and spent $92,000 from Jan. 26 to Feb. 24. She trails her main primary competition, Houston businessman Andrew White, in fundraising, but that's not a reason to worry, according to her campaign.
“We're thankful to our many grassroots donors from across the state. Our report will show we're running a strategic campaign focused on winning this race," according to a Valdez campaign statement responding to White's fundraising numbers.
White, the son of former Texas Gov. Mark White, has a little more than $944,000 cash on hand after raising about $131,000 in the period covered by the reports. He spent nearly $400,000 during the month. White also made a loan to his campaign, giving it $1 million in January.
Thanks to his fundraising advantage, White is on the air, at least in Houston, buying commercial time on broadcast and cable TV. Valdez released her first ad, narrated by actor John Leguizamo, over the weekend. It's a decent ad, but her campaign hasn't paid for it to air on TV. Instead, it's languishing on the campaign's YouTube page, where it's been watched 1,200 times.
Despite being outspent, Valdez picked up one of the biggest endorsements won by either candidate when U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio announced his support for her candidacy on Monday. Valdez also has endorsements from Planned Parenthood Texas Votes and the Texas AFL-CIO. She grabbed the attention of incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott over the weekend, too, when she made a fundraising trip to California.
“By traveling to one of the bluest states in the nation, this far-left candidate is going to raise massive amounts of funds from California liberals with deep pockets — and this fundraising haul will be spent to turn Texas blue,” Abbott's campaign said in a fundraising email.
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Despite the various advantages shown by White and Valdez over the last week, it's basically impossible to know where they stand electorally based on two primary polls released in the last two weeks. The latest, released Wednesday by KTVT-TV and Dixie Strategies, shows White with a 17-percent to 12-percent lead over Valdez, with a whopping 54 percent of voters saying they haven't made up their minds in the race. In a poll released by the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune last week, however, Valdez led with 43 percent to White's 24 percent.
The Tribune numbers, however, came the second time poll takers asked respondents about their choice, without giving them the option to say they were undecided. Given that chance the first time around, 66 percent of respondents said they hadn't yet decided how they were going to vote.
“On the Democratic side, this is a pretty unformed primary,” said Jim Henson, who heads the Texas Politics Project at UT-Austin and co-directed the poll, according to the Tribune . “Democratic candidates are still finding it difficult to operate in a vacuum of public attention. When 66 percent of Democrats don’t have an opinion in their top-of-the-ticket race, you’re not reaching your voters.”
If neither Valdez nor White receives 50 percent of the vote Tuesday, there will be a runoff May 22.