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Valdez unprepared to battle Abbott

Profile image for Denton Record-Chronicle Editorial
Denton Record-Chronicle Editorial

Texas has been a Republican red state for many years. The last time a Democrat won statewide election was in 1994.

Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez's announcement Wednesday that she is running for governor is not likely to change the equation for Democrats. Her election in 2004 was historic. She became the first gay female Hispanic sheriff ever elected in Texas.

For many years now, the state Democratic Party has wandered aimlessly in the Texas wilderness. Party officials have no strategy to change their fate in 2018. They keep blaming low voter turnout among Hispanics for election losses. Every election year, they try to stimulate higher turnout among Hispanics -- mostly Mexican-Americans -- and it never works.

In the past two election cycles, 2014 and 2016, Hispanic turnout has hovered between 38 percent and 40 percent. This is discouraging for Democrats expecting a surge of Hispanic voters in 2018.

Political reporters said Wednesday that Valdez's entry into the race for governor gives Democrats a serious candidate for the job. We are not so sure. They said that about state Sen. Wendy Davis in 2014, and then-Attorney General Greg Abbott swamped her by a 56 percent to 44 percent landslide to win his first term as governor.

As of Wednesday, Valdez and six other Democrats have filed papers to run for governor. A disciplined party would have orchestrated a primary race between two credible candidates. This would have ensured a head-to-head primary race and a story line that voters could get excited about while Abbott sleeps through a drama-free GOP primary with no real opposition.

When the dust settles after the candidate filing deadline on Monday, there could be as many as 10 Democratic candidates for governor on the ballot. The disarray and confusion recalls the enduring wisdom of Will Rogers, who once said, "I'm not a member of any organized political party. I'm a Democrat."

Valdez will run a campaign based on appeal to "the common man and woman."

"Like so many hardworking Texans, I know it's tough deciding between buying food, finding a decent place to live, and setting aside money for college tuition," she said Wednesday. "I'm a proud Texas Democrat. I believe good government can make people's lives better, and I intend to do just that."

Problem is that she has no money to combat the $40-million war chest that Abbott has amassed for his 2018 re-election campaign. It takes serious money to buy media exposure on television and travel by airplane in a state as big as Texas.

Yes, Valdez will attract some Hispanics to the polls because of her surname and because of the "D" next to her name. But Mexican-Americans, who are overwhelmingly Catholic, are not in lockstep with Democrats on abortion and on gay rights. Many of them are as socially conservative as Republicans.

Truth is that Valdez got bored with being Dallas County sheriff after almost 14 years. And she has allowed supporters to convince her that she can win.

Donald Trump's election proved that anything can happen in American politics. But any sober political analyst must conclude that Valdez is attempting to climb Mount Everest without the proper gear to make it to the summit.