Frances Valdez replaces Fran Watson, who stepped down to run for state Senate.
By Josh Inocéncio
Houston GLBT Political Caucus President Fran Watson announced her resignation Aug. 7 to focus on her nascent state Senate campaign against Republican incumbent Joan Huffman.
Frances Valdez, an immigration attorney and caucus board member, was elected to serve as president for the remainder of Watson’s 2017 term.
Watson quickly rose through the ranks after joining the caucus as a member in 2013. The following year, she was already sitting on the board as volunteer coordinator, and then she became vice president. In 2016, she was elected president after a contested race where her opponent ultimately withdrew.
Watson, the first black female caucus president, said she utilized her positions to diversify the body of the organization.
“My proudest moment, I believe, [is making] the caucus reflect the way Houston looks,” Watson said. “This created a broader dialogue in the conversation on LGBTQ issues.”
Watson broadened the caucus’ partnerships to include social justice groups in Houston focused on reproductive rights, immigrants rights, and criminal justice reform. On March 13, Watson led a coalition to the Capitol where a legion of political organizations met with legislators to show that Houston is united against any agenda that seeks to undermine equality.
Watson said she’s running against Huffman, who chairs the Senate State Affairs committee, because Texans deserve a politician who will facilitate dialogue with constituents rather than force through a partisan agenda. For example, after 15 hours of testimony against the anti-immigrant Senate Bill 4, Huffman refused to reconsider the bill.
“The Senate is supposed to be the place where you can discuss all this legislation, not the place to rush bills through,” Watson said. “It’s time for a change and I believe I’m the person that can bring that change.”
While Watson has stepped down to run her “people-driven” campaign in District 7, she said she’s confident Valdez will maintain an intersectional vision as caucus president.
“She has an ability to step back and listen to all the different perspectives,” Watson said of Valdez. “And then move forward without making people feel like their ideas are being shut down.”
Valdez said although LGBTQ issues are important to her, she’s “also a Latina, a woman, and a person of color.”
“[We need to recognize] our LGBTQ community is extremely diverse and there are a number of issues,” she said. “Some people have families, so they’re interested in education.”
Before becoming president earlier this month, Valdez served as chair of two caucus committees—Advocacy & Education and Screening. The Screening committee assesses local candidates and where they stand on issues. Recently, Valdez and the rest of leadership have begun interviewing candidates beyond LGBTQ issues.
“As Screening chair, we held our first candidate orientation,” Valdez said, referring to the caucus’ Candidate Screening & Endorsement Process Orientation in July. “The purpose was for candidates and members to learn about our screening process, so they would be prepared for the November 2017 screening.”
And there will be more of these in the future.
“We’re making sure our endorsed candidates are making it into office,” added Valdez. “We’ll be asking candidates a lot about issues that pertain to our community.” LGBTQ people are a part of every community, Valdez noted, so they’re affected by a host of issues.
The caucus, which meets the first Wednesday of every month at The Montrose Center at 7 p.m., will host its endorsement meeting for the November 2017 elections on Sept. 9.
For more info, visit the caucus’ website.