Come next year, Lupe Valdez may be making history once again. On Wednesday, Texas’ first Latina and first openly gay sheriff announced her intention to run for governor. If she wins, Valdez – who is considered a serious contender against current Gov. Greg Abbott – will also become Texas’ first Latina and first LGBTQ governor. The news came weeks after her team denied rumors that she’d renounce from her position as sheriff.
“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 in a statement, according to the Texas Tribune. “Opportunity in Texas ought to be as big as this great state, but it is out of reach for far too many, that’s why I’m running for Texas Governor. I’m a proud Texas Democrat. I believe good government can make people’s lives better, and I intend to do just that.”
Valdez, who is serving her fourth term as Dallas County sheriff, is the daughter of migrant farm workers. The San Antonio native went on to work for US Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Homeland Security. She and Abbott fundamentally disagree on how arrested undocumented immigrants should be dealt with. Abbot – who strongly opposes sanctuary cities (those not willing to cooperate with federal immigrant authorities) – believes they should all be held for ICE. Valdez said decisions on detainer requests should be reached on a case-by-case basis.
In a letter, Abbott stated that any sheriffs who didn’t comply would lose state grant money. This year, sanctuary became a flash point across the United States and Texas, where Abbott signing into law Senate Bill 4 (SB 4) – a law that intended to quell cities offering protection to undocumented immigrants.
Despite her conflict with a conservative governor who has instilled fear in communities of color and immigrants, Valdez hasn’t shown up for Latinos. In 2016, her office honored every detainer request, putting 2,500 immigrants at risk for deportation, according to Splinter.
Her department has also received condemnation for not providing information on prisoner deaths and injuries. The death of Javier Leal at the hands of his cellmate Patrick Martin had experts questioning whether it could have been avoided. In January, the Dallas Morning News Editorial Team wrote an op-ed piece titled, “Sheriff Lupe Valdez has a transparency problem” following her department’s refusal to answer questions. When the office released a statement, it offered a sanitized version of events. This came after Valdez’s promises to be open.