Lupe Valdez, Fran Watson among out hopefuls on May 22 ballot.
By Brandon Wolf
Seven LGBTQ candidates across Texas, including Houston’s Fran Watson, will vie for Democratic Party nominations in primary runoffs on May 22.
Early voting begins Monday, May 14.
In addition to the LGBTQ candidates, the runoffs include some key races involving allies—most notably a showdown in Houston’s 7th Congressional District between Lizzie Pannill Fletcher and Laura Moser.
At the top of the ballot will be the Texas governor’s race, in which out lesbian and former Dallas County sheriff Lupe Valdez outpaced Houston businessman Andrew White, 43 percent to 27 percent, in a nine-candidate primary field.
The Houston GLBT Political Caucus endorsed White, while both Equality Texas’ political action committee and the LGBTQ Victory Fund are backing Valdez. The winner will face anti-LGBTQ incumbent Republican Greg Abbott in November.
The LGBTQ Victory Fund, which backs out candidates nationwide, lists Valdez among its potential “game changers” in 2018.
“We have endorsed Lupe in three successful races for Dallas County sheriff,” said Sean Meloy, the Victory Fund’s political director. “She is right on the issues of women, equality, health care, and education.
“She is viable,” Meloy added. “She has proven she can win in male-dominated fields. She has put together an effective team, engaging people all around the state, and has the advantage of veteran, Latinx, and Dallas voters.”
Mark Jones, a political scientist at Rice University’s Baker Institute, said he believes Valdez is the strong favorite heading into the runoff.
While voter turnout historically drops by about half in runoffs, Jones expects that it will be down by only a third this year. “Democrats have the advantages of party enthusiasm and a strong dislike for President Trump,” Jones said.
Watson, meanwhile, faces an uphill battle in her bid to become the Democratic nominee in Texas Senate District 17. Rita Lucido was the top vote-getter in the three-candidate primary field, with 49 percent, while Watson finished second with 35 percent. The winner of their runoff will face anti-LGBTQ incumbent senator Joan Huffman (R-Houston).
“With a 90 percent volunteer-based organization, we were able to gain 35 percent of the vote,” said Watson, who hopes to become the first openly LGBTQ person, and only the third black woman, elected to the Texas Senate.
Watson said education and healthcare are the key issues among voters in the district. “The plan for the runoff is to enhance what we’ve already been doing—hitting the doors, phone-banking, and digital,” Watson said. “We are also implementing targeted strategies.”
The other five LGBTQ candidates in the May 22 runoffs are Lorie Burch in the 3rd Congressional District, Mary Wilson in the 21st Congressional District, Gina Ortiz Jones in the 23rd Congressional District (see story, page 38), Eric Holguin in the 27th Congressional District, and Sandra Moore in Texas House District 133.
In the hotly contested race to replace anti-LGBTQ incumbent representative John Culberson (R-Houston) in the 7th Congressional District, Fletcher was the top vote-getter in the seven-candidate primary field, with 29 percent, followed by Moser with 24 percent.
The Houston GLBT Political Caucus made no endorsement in the 7th Districtrace prior to the primary, but is backing Fletcher in the runoff.
“Voters understand that this campaign is about the issues that affect all of us, like recovering from Hurricane Harvey and preparing for future storms, access to affordable, non-discriminatory healthcare, and keeping our families safe from gun violence,” said Erin Mincberg, Fletcher’s campaign manager. “Lizzie will stand up and fight back in Washington against the dangerous agenda of Donald Trump and John Culberson.”
“Laura’s authenticity, transparency, and fierce advocacy on the issues has inspired not only consistent Democratic voters, but new voters who have been looking for a candidate they can believe in, and relate to, for a long time,” said Ali Lozano, Moser’s outreach director.
The 2018 election cycle has produced a record 52 openly LGBTQ candidates in Texas. Thirteen were eliminated in the primary, while seven advanced to primary runoffs, and 28 are already headed to the November general election.
Four more LGBTQ candidates were in May 5 municipal elections around the state, with two winning and two losing.
This article appears in the May 2018 edition of OutSmart magazine.