Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez announced and officially filed her candidacy for governor of Texas Wednesday morning.
Valdez made the announcement at the Texas Democratic Party Headquarters in downtown Austin. After holding a short press conference, Valdez then thanked several of her supporters in attendance before leaving for a flight back to Dallas.
“If we listen to each other … we can make changes,” Valdez said. “So, I’m stepping up for Texas, for everyone’s fair shot to get ahead. I’m in.”
Valdez said she looks forward to spending the next year speaking with Texans about issues such as healthcare and immigration, specifically addressing the fear many undocumented immigrants have of deportation.
“For the Dreamers, if this isn’t their country, they don’t have a country,” Valdez said.
Valdez is the latest of several Democrats to challenge Gov. Greg Abbott, the Republican incumbent. Even though she resigned this morning, Valdez will continue to serve as Dallas’ sheriff until a replacement is named.
Going into the 2018 election cycle, the next step for Valdez is to secure the Democratic nomination for governor by winning the primary election in March.
Valdez’s opponents in the Democratic primary include Andrew White, son of former governor Mark White, and Dallas businessman Jeffrey Payne, who owns the popular gay-bar The Dallas Eagle.
Abbott currently remains unopposed going into the Republican primary.
Robert Gonzalez, communications director for University Democrats, said they will wait until the March primary to endorse a candidate for the 2018 gubernatorial election. Should Valdez win the March primaries, Gonzalez said he thinks she will be a “breath of fresh air” compared to Abbott.
“I think she has the potential to touch a wide audience, a wide array of voters, especially in these large urban areas where we see a surge of Democratic support,” said Gonzalez, government and rhetoric senior. “She has a fighting chance.”
First elected to the sheriff’s office in 2004, Valdez was re-elected three more times in 2008, 2012 and 2016. Valdez is one of only two female sheriffs in the state, and she is the only openly-gay female sheriff in Texas.
Over the past year, Valdez has attacked the state’s anti-sanctuary cities law, Senate Bill 4, which Abbott has lauded as a measure to improve public safety.
According to the Dallas Morning News, Valdez also battled with Abbott in 2015 over jail protocol when she refused to hold immigrants who committed minor offenses for more than 48 hours after their original release date. Traditional immigrations and customs enforcement detainers request that jails hold immigrants an additional 48 hours after their release date to give federal authorities time to retrieve them.
In the fight against Abbott, who has months of preparation, a $41 million war chest and a Republican incumbency to boost him along, Valdez will be a severe underdog should she secure the Democratic nomination. Democrats also have not won a statewide election since 1994.
Editors Note: This story has been updated to include a statement from University Democrats.