If Wendy Davis’ unsuccessful 2014 Democratic gubernatorial campaign began with hoopla — and it did when she revved up juiced-up supporters in a crowded coliseum near Fort Worth — Lupe Valdez’s 2018 gubernatorial campaign began in downtown Austin Wednesday with what we’ll charitably call hooplo.
Valdez’s announcement came in a meeting room near Texas Democratic Party headquarters in the Texas AFL-CIO building on Lavaca Street, so geographically close yet so politically far from the Governor’s Mansion.
Let posterity forever note Valdez’s first public pronouncement after signing the paperwork that made her a candidate: “This is going to be a little difficult for me.”
But let posterity also note she was talking about her immediate task, reading her relatively low-key announcement statement at a lectern overcrowded with TV microphones because the Democratic Party’s equipment was on the fritz.
Valdez, with her inspiring life story as the child of migrant farmworkers, seems a good fit for a Texas Democratic Party long relegated to scrappy underdog, underfunded status.
“Like so many Texans,” said Valdez, who has resigned as Dallas County sheriff, “I have lived the life where your day starts way before the sun rises. I was born the eighth child of migrant farmworkers.”
She had little to say about what she’d do as governor, other than noting that “good government is about finding solutions to real problems, not putting a spin on lies and creating fear.”
Texans, she said, “are begging for a return of common sense, smart investments and just plain sanity.”
Sanity in Texas government? What fun would that be?
Valdez, who’ll face several candidates in the Democratic primary, answered a few questions prior to begging off to catch a plane back to Dallas.
Q: How’re you going to beat GOP Gov. Greg Abbott?
A: “Texas is not a red state. It’s a nonvoting state.”
Q: How much money will you need to win?
A: “I think we’re going to raise whatever money is necessary. I don’t believe that we need 40, 60, 90 gazillion dollars.”
Despite downplaying money, Valdez tweeted for dollars shortly after her announcement: “I’m in! Now, I need you to become a founding donor of our campaign.”
As she headed out of the room, a TV guy asked Valdez to list her top three priorities.
“We’re going to have plenty of time to discuss that,” Valdez said, “but it’s going to be jobs, education and transportation. But we’re going to have plenty of time to discuss that.”
Yes, we are. And we look forward to how she would seek to address those issues as a Democratic governor with an overwhelmingly Republican Legislature.
Team Abbott responded quickly to the anointed Democratic challenger, who seems to start out as the party establishment pick in a field that includes much lesser-known candidates. Wednesday morning, shortly after the Democrats announced that Valdez was about to announce, Abbott consultant Dave Carney tweeted this sarcastic (I think) response: “Never doubt the power of prayer!”
And, timed to coincide with the Valdez event, the Abbott campaign announced he’d been endorsed by the Dallas Police Association Political Action Committee, something Valdez discounted as a decision made by “a couple of people.”
Valdez’ public service career — U.S. Army captain, Customs agent, Department of Homeland Security agent and sheriff — is to be lauded. Thank you for your service. Now, tell us what you know about the complexities of state government.
And Valdez is correct, we’re going to have plenty of time for that. Voters are entitled to hear that discussion.
Indeed, the differences between Davis’ 2014 high-energy, high-profile, high-production-value announcement of what turned out to be a disastrous candidacy couldn’t have been more different than the Valdez version we saw Wednesday.
But the biggest difference might have been this: Some people in the room when Davis announced actually thought she could win.
See video with this column at mystatesman.com