White says with Straus out as speaker, Texas will be a ‘runaway truck’


Democratic gubernatorial rivals Andrew White and Lupe Valdez appeared at the Texas AFL-CIO convention.

White warned that Joe Straus’ departure as speaker heightens the need for a Democrat to win the governorship.

White and Valdez were in general agreement on labor issues.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew White said Saturday that it is imperative for Democrats to take the Governor’s Mansion in 2018 because otherwise, with the departure of Joe Straus as speaker of the House, Texas government will be a “runaway truck without anyone able to hit the brakes.”

“Over and over, Speaker Straus has been the voice of reason in the Republican Party, so without that voice, I’m very nervous,” White told the American-Statesman after a joint appearance with Democratic gubernatorial rival Lupe Valdez at the 2018 Texas AFL-CIO Committee on Political Education Convention.

Absent Straus, White said, “I see vouchers happening. I see bathroom bills happening. I see the loss of local control. I see continued failure in education and health care.

“Joe Straus was the brake in the Republican Party, and that brake is no longer there,” said White, a Houston entrepreneur and the son of former Gov. Mark White.

Appearing before about 350 delegates and guests at the Sheraton Austin Hotel, White said that “this election is one of the most important in our lifetimes,” precisely because Straus is surrendering the gavel in the House, to be replaced, he predicted, by someone in the “extreme” mold of Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Before their convention appearances, both White and Valdez, who recently stepped down as Dallas County sheriff to seek the governorship, marched up Congress Avenue with anti-Trump protesters proceeding from an impeachment rally at City Hall to an abortion rights rally at the Capitol.

Valdez tweeted a photo of herself with Wendy Davis, the 2014 Democratic nominee for governor who lost to Abbott by 20 percentage points. Despite the very long odds of a Democrat defeating Abbott in November, 2018 promises to be a better year for Democrats nationally than 2014 was.

Asked by Texas AFL-CIO President Rick Levy how he could defeat Abbott, White replied, “This is my get out the vote strategy: Donald Trump is going to tweet for the next year. It’s going to outrage Americans … and every time he does that, a new Texan is going to decide to vote.”

“Look at what’s going on right now,” Valdez said, answering the same question. “Everywhere I’ve been, there is so much energy and excitement about all the candidates that are running,”

“Oftentimes, pardon the expression, we have to piss off some folks so they can gear up and do something,” Valdez said. “You know what? I think we’re pissed off enough.”

In answer to questions, White and Valdez generally agreed on labor issues.

Both back increasing the state’s $7.25 minimum wage, but they cautioned that the labor movement’s $15 goal would not be achievable any time soon.

Valdez said they might have to gradually “stair-step” their way to $15.

“The fact of the matter is that it hasn’t been raised in a decade and it should be raised,” White said. “I haven’t thought of a specific number, but it’s clear to me $7.25 doesn’t buy what it bought 10 years ago.”

Valdez and White also agreed that Senate Bill 4, the crackdown on sanctuary cities, should be repealed.

Valdez said the law had done nothing but foment needless fear, and White said that Abbott signed it against the advice of “every single police chief of a major city” in Texas.

“What is wrong with that man?” White asked.

Though there are nine Democratic candidates for governor in the March 6 primary, White and Valdez were the only two invited to address the convention, which will announce its choice in primary contests Sunday.

Levy said that Abbott was not invited because, with his record, there was nothing he could say to satisfy the organization.

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