Former Dallas Sheriff Lupe Valdez became Texas’ first openly gay and Latina nominee for governor Tuesday night after a runoff against Houston businessman Andrew White.
“Tonight is a victory for all of us who are fighting for a stronger and fairer Texas,” Valdez, a Democrat, said in a released statement.
White, a moderate Democrat who personally opposes abortion, voiced his support for Valdez, 70, after his loss.
Leading up to the runoff, Valdez was questioned about her record on immigration while serving as a federal agent and subsequently lost an endorsement from Jolt Texas, an organization that mobilizes Latino voters.
Valdez, the youngest daughter of migrant farmworkers, has a history of breaking barriers. In 2005, she became the only Latina sheriff in the U.S. and one of the country’s few openly LGBTQ public officials.
Despite her family’s fear that her running for public office would ignite a homophobic backlash and her campaign’s acknowledgement that her sexuality may be an issue for some voters in Texas — where it is still legal to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity — Valdez was not deterred.
“For some folks it’ll still be a moral issue,” Valdez said to NBC News in a recent interview. “But for the majority of the generation now, I’m very hopeful. I think the majority of them are going to say, ‘What difference does it make? Tell us about your qualities.’”
Valdez’ platform is in part shaped by her first-hand experiences with discrimination. She said obstacles to embracing diversity in the state negatively impact its talent pool and tarnish its brand.
“I’m an Army veteran, I was a federal agent, law enforcement, I’m Hispanic, I’m LGBT,” Valdez said. “I know there’s a lot of people in Texas that will identify with one, two or several of those issues.”
Valdez will challenge current Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott in November. According to recent polling data, Abbott is expected to maintain his office.
Valdez is one of a record-breaking number of LGBTQ-identifying Texans seeking office this election cycle, according to OutSmart, a Houston-area LGBTQ magazine. Earlier this year, OutSmart estimated there were at least 52 LGBTQ political hopefuls in the state — roughly three times more than in any previous cycle.