Lupe Valdez, Texas gubernatorial hopeful, touts migrant worker roots

Dec 06, 2017
Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez announced Wednesday, December 6, 2017 that she will run for Texas governor, giving Democrats their highest-profile candidate to date. (RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Democrat Lupe Valdez, who has resigned as Dallas County sheriff and declared her candidacy for governor of Texas, often underscores her family’s background as migrant farm workers.

Valdez told reporters in Austin Wednesday: “I was born the eighth child of migrant farm workers.” Similarly, Valdez told the Democratic National Convention in July 2016: “I am the youngest of eight children born to migrant workers.”

The fact-checking PolitiFact Texas was curious about Valdez’s family and background and reviewed news reports and reached out to her campaign for biographical detail.

Kiefer Odell of her campaign  said Valdez was born in San Antonio. "Her family would migrate to fields up north to work during the spring and summer," Odell said.

He sent two photos -- dating from 1950 or 1951, he said. In one photo, Odell said, the future sheriff appears next to her mother in a field that her family was working and in the other she's between her mother and a brother.

Valdez, who won her fourth sheriff’s election in November 2016, told Texas Monthly in 2005 that until she was 7, everyone in her family worked in fields, sometimes sleeping in their car to save money. The family then settled in San Antonio, she said, where she was schooled before going to college and into a career that took a very public turn when she retired from the U.S. Customs Service before running (and winning) for sheriff in 2004.

Other news stories have touched on Valdez’s biography including a Nov. 10, 2004, New York Times report on Valdez winning for sheriff and a February 2005 D magazine profile, by Brian Sweany, which said, in part: “Lupe was the youngest of seven children—and the only girl. (Another brother died at a young age.) A big age difference between her family’s two youngest, Lupe and Ramiro, and the older boys meant the Valdezes were like two families.”

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who announced his intentions to seek a second term this summer, grew up in Duncanville; his father was a stockbroker and insurance agent, his mother a homemaker, Sweany noted in a 2013 Texas Monthly story. Democrat Andrew White of Houston, whose late father, Mark, was an attorney who served as governor from 1983 through 1986, has indicated his intention to run for governor as well, though he has yet to file his candidacy.

What have you heard from Valdez, or about the candidate, that might merit a fact-check?

This story has been updated to add photos and details from Valdez’s campaign.