It’s not exactly “Friday Night Lights.” In fact, one crueler than I might call it “Friday Night Lightweights,” a debate between two Democratic gubernatorial candidates battling for the honor of being a prohibitive underdog in November.
But as a member of the civic chorus that called for this debate, I’m looking forward to it. That — in addition to other things — makes me odd, because it aligns me with the sliver of a fraction of a portion of a percentage of the people of the Great State of Texas who’ll be watching.
This debate between ex-Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and Houston businessman Andrew White will help decide which candidate will be run off in the runoff. Early voting starts Monday and ends May 18. On-time voting is May 22. There is no late voting, though there should be.
First, let’s remember the runoff rules: If you voted in the March 6 GOP primary you can’t vote in the Democratic runoff. If you didn’t vote in either primary, you can vote in either party’s runoff. And, of course, if you voted in the Democratic primary you can vote in the Democratic runoff.
But many — most? — of the million or so folks in that last category, though eligible, won’t return to the polls to complete their civic responsibility.
The good news is everybody is eligible to watch Friday night as the Democrats scuffle for the right to lose to GOP Gov. Greg Abbott in November. (I’ve never been wrong on a political prognostication. Trump? President? Don’t make me laugh.)
You don’t even need to have a TV to watch the Democratic gubernatorial debate. The hourlong event will be livestreamed at 7 p.m. on KXAN.com. Thanks to KXAN and the various Democratic groups that helped make this debate happen.
Breaking News! Looks like Spectrum News will carry the debate for customers of Spectrum Cable, which used to be Time-Warner Cable, which used to be Something Else Cable and someday will be Yet Again Something Else Cable.
Anticipating a less-than-boffo viewership, I understand why KXAN opted not to pre-empt regularly scheduled programming to show the debate on real TV. (FYI, looks like KXAN’s regularly scheduled programming is an episode of “Blindspot,” in which “Jane is forced to recruit someone from her past to help take down a dangerous alliance.” Hmm, if White, son of a gov, wins the nomination might that be kind of like the Democrats turning to someone from their past to help take down a dangerous alliance?)
The debate’s cordial moderator will be Gromer Jeffers, the Dallas Morning News’ veteran political reporter. Jeffers is most assuredly cordial. I don’t know if he’s a moderate. And on the off chance that Jeffers might steer the debate to topics of interest to him, the debaters might want to do some homework on the Chicago Cubs and blues, gospel and soul music.
It’ll be interesting to see what tone the debate takes. Valdez has been acting like a front-runner, a status she earned by taking 43 percent of the vote in the March primary. White ran second with 27 percent. Let’s see who — if anyone — gets feisty.
Perhaps we got a hint when Valdez, in announcing she’d agreed to the debate, issued a statement: “I have long known what my values are. I’m a Texas Democrat. I look forward to seeing which opponent shows up, the ‘very conservative Democrat or moderate Republican.’”
That last part referred to a White quote about himself in Texas Monthly.
For Valdez, the debate is an opportunity to answer questions raised by some — including newspapers and others that endorsed White after speaking with both candidates — about her depth of knowledge on issues.
There’s this from the Ouch Department for Valdez: The Austin Chronicle, which endorsed Valdez in the March primary, is endorsing nobody in the runoff: “We tepidly endorsed Lupe Valdez in the primary, but her performance since March has given us pause.” The weekly said it continues to admire her “progressive ideals” but also notes “her tenuous grasp of policy.”
“Unfortunately,” the paper said, “those shortcomings have persisted in a way that has made it unwise to invest in her candidacy, and we’ve seen little from Andrew White that would make us want to change our vote.”
One thing’s for sure: Whoever wins the Democratic nomination will face a GOP governor well-steeped in how state government works. (And yes, you wise guy, state government periodically does work.) Abbott has been in state government as a Texas Supreme Court justice, attorney general or governor since 1995.
Valdez has never been in state government. She was Dallas County sheriff for 13 years. White’s never held public office. His dad Mark was a one-term governor in the 1980s, which, if my math and memory are correct, was even longer ago than 1995.
So, if you’ve got nothing better to do tonight (Sad!), fire up your browser of choice and choose to browse on over to the debate.
And, when it’s over, I’d be interested to hear what you think.