Former Dallas County sheriff Lupe Valdez defeated Houston businessman Andrew White in the Democratic primary runoff Tuesday, 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. (Oregon Gov. Kate Brown identifies as bisexual.)
Valdez captured 53 percent of the vote, to White's 47 percent, according to unofficial results. She was backed by LGBTQ groups including Equality Texas' PAC, the Victory Fund, and local chapters of Stonewall Democrats. But White had the backing of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, which turned heads by endorsing him over Valdez.
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 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."
Along with Tuesday's victories for Valdez and other LGBTQ candidates, several hardline conservatives were defeated in Republican primary runoffs for 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 session.
In her victory speech, Valdez thanked the LGBTQ groups that endorsed her, as well as "[her] darling sweetheart Lindsay," referring to her partner, Lindsay Brown.
"I am constantly hearing this is going to be such an uphill battle," Valdez said of the race against Abbott. "Please, tell me when I didn't have an uphill battle. … I am getting darned good at uphill battles, and I'm not done yet."
Valdez is also the first Latina to become a major-party nominee for Texas governor. In 2004, she became the first lesbian, first Latina, and first female candidate elected sheriff of Dallas County. She endured numerous anti-gay political attacks, and her victory was a precursor to the blue wave that swept the county in 2006. She was re-elected three times before stepping down in 2017 to focus on her gubernatorial campaign.
Valdez was among four openly LGBTQ candidates in Texas who won their runoffs on Tuesday, 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 District 23-a swing district that many analysts predict will turn blue in 2018. Ortiz Jones easily defeated Rick Trevino in the runoff, and will face incumbent Republican Congressman Will Hurd in November.
Meanwhile, Lorie Burch captured the Democratic nomination in Congressional District 3. She will face Republican Van Taylor in November. And Eric Holguin won the Democratic runoff in Congressional District 27, where he'll face Michael Cloud in November.
In one disappointing result from Tuesday, beloved Houston activist Fran Watson lost the Democratic runoff in Texas Senate District 17. Rita Lucido defeated Watson by a margin of 58 percent to 42 percent.
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.