Herman: A rough few days for Democratic governor candidate Lupe Valdez

Feb 05, 2018

Sometimes, political endorsements are more interesting for who doesn’t get them than for who does.

In recent days, The Dallas Morning News and the Houston GLBT Political Caucus each endorsed Houston businessman Andrew White for the Democratic nomination to probably lose to GOP Gov. Greg Abbott in November.

Those endorsements of White are solidly based. He’s working hard to get his message out and displays a good grasp of issues facing the state. Though his dad was governor, White’s a political rookie. But lots of folks seem to think that’s a good demographic in which to look for answers.

These days, outsiders are in. And White is the Democratic outsider when compared with Lupe Valdez, the party’s other top-tier gubernatorial contender. She’s a former longtime Dallas County sheriff and the favorite of many Texas Democratic insiders who believe she can be as solid a challenger as their party could field against the overwhelmingly favored Abbott.

TEXAS POLITICS DELIVERED EVERY DAY: Sign up for our Texas Politics email

So that’s why two endorsements that recently went to White — one from Valdez’s hometown newspaper and one from a political group in one of her demographics — were eye-opening, as well as troublesome for Valdez.

The Morning News in its endorsement of White said it’s “his knowledge of the state’s complex challenges that makes him far and away the better choice in the crowded nine-way Democratic primary for governor.” The paper also said it’s White’s “collaborative demeanor and centrist approach that would make him well-suited to lead the state and work with what most likely will remain a GOP-controlled Texas Legislature.”

And the Dallas paper damningly said this: “We had high hopes for former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez. … We were disappointed by her gross unfamiliarity with state issues, however, particularly an almost incoherent attempt to discuss state financing.

“At one point, Valdez, 70, volunteered that she didn’t know whether the state was spending $8 million or $8 billion on border control. (It’s closer to $800 million.) On college tuition, she first suggested the Legislature ‘and stakeholders’ should set tuition rates, but then contradicted herself, and she later said the state should move to reduce local property tax rates, apparently unaware of those set by local jurisdictions,” the paper said.

Ouch. Pretty bad.

The Houston Chronicle also endorsed White, telling its readers, “He’s the only Democratic gubernatorial candidate who seems to have given serious thought to the state government’s role in protecting Gulf Coast residents from flooding.”

Valdez, the Chronicle said, “stumbled over flooding questions.”

LIKE US ON FACEBOOK: Our Lone Star Politics page brings Capitol news to your Facebook feed

Neither paper mentioned Valdez’s sexual orientation, a fact that tells us nothing about how she’d perform as governor. Nevertheless, it was a surprise to some when the Houston GLBT caucus on Saturday opted to endorse the openly heterosexual White over the openly gay Valdez.

Much like the Dallas newspaper, the caucus found that Valdez isn’t ready for the prime time of statewide leadership.

“Let’s be clear: Our members wanted to endorse Valdez,” said Mike Webb, Houston GLBT caucus president. “There’s nothing that would make us more proud than electing a member of our own community. However, we also have an expectation in our community to endorse the person who will do the best job. And our members just thought that Andrew White would do the best job.”

Webb also said, “Our members were convinced he would be best positioned to fight back hard against the aggressive bigotry we are getting from our governor” and that on “questions of deportation of immigrants, (Valdez’s) answers just weren’t very empathetic.”

None of this bodes well for Valdez, though she still could wind up as the Democrats’ nominee. But just when we thought things couldn’t get much worse for Texas Democrats, who haven’t won a statewide race since 1994 and who lost the 2014 gubernatorial race by 20 points, it looks as if they actually could.

Party leadership — to the extent some of it wants Valdez as its nominee — is running the risk of losing its own gubernatorial primary.