Valdez Braces for Anti-Gay Attacks

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‘There’s no telling how low Greg Abbott will stoop,’ she says

By John Wright, Brandon Wolf, and Lourdes Zavaleta 

Former Dallas County sheriff Lupe Valdez defeated Houston businessman Andrew White in a Democratic runoff May 22, becoming the first openly LGBTQ major-party nominee for Texas governor in the state’s history.

If Valdez defeats Republican governor Greg Abbott in November, she will be the first openly gay person elected governor in the U.S.

Houston’s Annise Parker, who became the first LGBTQ person elected mayor of a major U.S. city in 2009 and now serves as CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, said Valdez’s victory was “the latest in a series of groundbreaking wins for LGBTQ candidates in the state.”

“While bigoted state legislators in Austin continue to divide the state and target our community, Texans are voting for LGBTQ candidates because we are authentic, values-driven leaders who deliver on promises,” Parker said. “That is why Lupe won, and we will work hard to expose Governor Abbott’s cynical politics of divisiveness and showcase Lupe’s positive agenda for Texans over the next five months.”

No Democrat has won a statewide race in Texas since 1994, but Valdez told OutSmart she sees a path to victory.

“While the current governor spends his days working to help his special-interest donors, I will focus every day on what matters to the everyday Texan,” Valdez said. “I will also work to reach new voters that have yet to be engaged in the political process. The coalition is out there in Texas, and we will build it.”

Valdez also said she’s prepared for the likelihood of anti-gay attacks.

“There’s no telling how low Greg Abbott will stoop, but I have not, and will not, hide who I am,” she said. “I won’t be distracted by any of the shameless attacks he’ll throw. I’m focused on talking to everyday Texans about improving their lives.”

In addition to victories by Valdez and other LGBTQ candidates, several hardline conservatives were defeated in Republican primary runoffs for the Texas Legislature, losing to opponents backed by a moderate GOP group that opposes anti-transgender “bathroom bills.”

“The results in these runoffs and in the March primaries clearly demonstrate that Republican voters want constructive and pragmatic leadership for our fast-growing state,” said outgoing House speaker Joe Straus, a Republican who is credited with killing the bathroom bills in last year’s legislative session.

Valdez was among four openly LGBTQ candidates in Texas who won their runoffs, while three were defeated. As a result, 31 of the record 52 openly LGBTQ candidates in the state this year will now be on the ballot in November. In addition, two have already won their races.

Gina Ortiz Jones is poised to become the first openly LGBTQ Texan elected to Congress, after winning a runoff for the Democratic nomination in the 23rd Congressional District—a swing district that many analysts predict will turn blue in 2018. Ortiz Jones easily defeated Rick Treviño in the runoff, and will face incumbent Republican congressman Will Hurd in November.

“I expect some folks in the Republican Party to make an issue about my sexuality,” Ortiz Jones told OutSmart. “That probably says more about them than it does about me, though. I’ve got a long record of public service and putting my country above everything else. I look forward to serving my district, and that is what I will continue to talk about.”

Meanwhile, Lorie Burch captured the Democratic nomination in the 3rd Congressional District. She will face Republican Van Taylor in November. And Eric Holguin won the Democratic runoff in the 27th Congressional District, where he’ll face Republican Michael Cloud.

“This election is about two visions of our community and our country—one vision keeps us down a path of division and alienation; the other sees the very best of who we are through inclusion, collaboration, and equality,” Burch told OutSmart.

In one disappointing result from Tuesday, beloved Houston activist Fran Watson lost the Democratic runoff in Texas Senate District 17.

As a first-time candidate, I can look back and say that I have no regrets,” Watson said. “You haven’t seen the last of me. We have a lot of work to do, and I will continue to be a part of it.”

The other LGBTQ candidates who lost runoffs Tuesday were Democrats Mary Street Wilson in Congressional District 21, and Sandra Moore in Texas House District 133.

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John Wright

John Wright is the editor of OutSmart magazine. He has spent two decades in the mainstream and LGBTQ media. Most recently, he served as senior editor of Dallas Voice, and covered LGBTQ issues in the state Legislature for The Texas Observer. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Wright earned his bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Florida. He resides in the EaDo area of Houston, where he is currently remodeling a 1930s row house.
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