March 7, 2018 at 12:09 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Lesbian sheriff advances in Texas gubernatorial race after primary

Lupe Valdez, gay news, Washington Blade

Sheriff Lupe Valdez will proceed to a run-off in the Texas gubernatorial election. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Out lesbian and former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez is one of two Democrats running for governor in Texas able to advance to a run-off after a strong showing in the state’s primary election.

Valdez secured 42.9 percent of the vote in a face-off among nine candidates. Although she obtained a plurality of the vote, it wasn’t enough for her to secure the Democratic nomination.

The former sheriff will go head-to-head in a run-off set for May 22 with Andrew White, the son of a former governor of Texas who’s also seeking the Democratic nomination. White obtained 27.4 percent of the vote in the primary.

The winner of the run-off will obtain the Democratic nomination and run in the general election against incumbent Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who easily obtained the Republican nomination to run for re-election.

Abbott has built an anti-LGBT record. An opponent of same-sex marriage who’s said “marriage was defined by God,” Abbott pressured the Texas Supreme Court to take up a case against same-sex spousal benefits for Houston city employees despite the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality. The justices handed down a ruling questioning whether the decision applies to those benefits despite explicit wording in the Obergefell decision.

More recently, Abbott signed into law a “religious freedom” bill allowing taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to deny placement into LGBT homes and called for a special session of the Texas legislature for the sole purpose of passing an anti-transgender bathroom bill. The attempt to pass anti-trans legislation in Texas was ultimately thwarted.

Valdez wasn’t the only openly LGBT candidate seeking the Democratic nomination to run for governor in Texas. Also in the mix was Dallas business person Jeffrey Payne, but he only obtained 4.8 percent support in the primary and won’t proceed to the run-off.

Should Valdez secure the nomination and pull off an unlikely win in the general election, she could be the first openly gay person elected as governor in the United States. However, she could face competition for that distinction this year from U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), who’s running to become governor of Colorado, and Maryland State Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County), who’s running to become governor of his state.

The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund has yet to make an endorsement in the Texas gubernatorial race, although that may change now that Payne, the only LGBT candidate in the race besides Valdez, is out of the race.

Valdez’ competitor in the run-off for the Democratic nomination, White, isn’t without LGBT support. White has obtained the endorsement from the Houston GLBT Political Caucus.

Other openly LGBT candidates had wins in the Democratic primary in addition to Valdez:

* Gina Ortiz Jones, an Iraq war veteran who’s running in Texas’s 23rd congressional district, secured a plurality 42 percent of the vote in her primary and will head into a run-off against Rick Trevino for the Democratic nomination.

Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), a gay member of Congress and chair of the Equality PAC, congratulated Jones — the PAC’s first non-incumbent endorsement in 2018 — on her showing in the primary.

“Gina’s clear first place finish is a decisive statement that the people of the Texas 23rd are ready to embrace Gina’s vision in the general election,” Takano said. “Gina’s lifetime commitment to defending our national values clearly resonated with the voters and we are confident her message of a more equal and fair country for all people will lead her to victory.”

* Mark Phariss, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit that successfully challenged Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage, won his primary for the Democratic nomination to run for the seat representing District 8 in the Texas Senate. Phariss will face a significant challenge in the Republican stronghold running against Angela Paxton, whom the Republican nominated.

* Texas State Rep. Mary Gonzalez, the first openly pansexual elected official in the United States, won her primary and will be uncontested in the general election.

* Lesbian attorney Julie Johnson won the Democratic primary in the Dallas area to run against incumbent State Rep. Matt Rinaldi, an anti-LGBT lawmaker who sponsored a bill allowing medical practitioners to deny services against LGBT people.

* Fran Watson, a lesbian attorney in the Houston area, came in second in her primary to run for a Texas House seat. That will be enough for her to advance to the run-off on May 22.

* Steven Kirkland, who’s gay, will advance in the general election to run for a seat on the Texas Supreme Court. Judicial candidates Jim Kovach, Jerry Simoneaux and Beau Miller will also advance to the general election.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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