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Why Texas Gubernatorial candidate Lupe Valdez gives me hope

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Ever since Trump was elected, many progressive Americans have felt like our country is moving backwards. I would count myself among them. But recently, I finally felt hope about our nation’s future. I went to the church down the road from my childhood home to cast my vote in the Texas Democratic gubernatorial primary race, which was between Andrew White and Lupe Valdez.

Andrew White, a white businessman from Houston, is a typical Democratic candidate in a state known for its consistent Republican leanings: He ran on a centrist platform that highlighted his faith in God and his personal pro-life abortion beliefs (even though he ran on a pro-choice platform). His candidacy represents a broader logic employed by the Democratic party that their candidates have to be centrist to have a shot at winning an election. While Democratic candidates in Texas often promote liberal causes like supporting welfare programs and raising teachers’ wages, they frequently steer clear from social issues like immigrant and LGBTQ+ rights. This results in many liberal Texans feeling forced to choose a candidate who does not truly represent their values.

Lupe Valdez, on the other hand, breaks all these previously set, centrist boundaries: She is a proud, lesbian Latina. In a state in which nearly half of the population identifies as Latino, Valdez’s ability to represent this population is significant. She represents other underrepresented Texan identities, too: She is the daughter of migrant workers. She is a veteran, a federal agent, and a former Dallas county sheriff. She is a gay women of color who wants to fight for LGBTQ+ rights and women’s rights.

On May 22, Valdez proved the Democratic party’s approach to Texas wrong: She became the first Latina and the first openly gay person ever to be nominated for governor by a major party in Texas. In November, therefore, Valdez will face off against the current governor of Texas, Republican Greg Abbott. It will be a tough race, since she is less politically established, has fewer financial resources than Abbott, and is running in a state that has not had a Democratic Governor in over two decades.

But, as Valdez points out, Texan conservatism may not necessarily be her biggest obstacle to winning. As she put it, “Texas is not a red state, its a non-voting state.” Only 55 percent of Texans voted in the 2016 election, making Texas 47th in the nation for voter turnout. This low voting participation rate is exacerbated by rigid voting ID laws. Texas requires a strict form of identification for voting, including driver’s liscences, passports, gun licenses, and other forms of identification, which often places an undue burden on poor or minority voters.

Regardless of how this election turns out, Valdez has already shown young women, Latinos, LGBTQ+, and liberal people in Texas that their voice is a valid part of the political conversation. If you don’t live in Texas, you can find women running in your own state and local elections here. By becoming more involved in the political process, you can help support candidates like Lupe Valdez, who are not normally represented in U.S. politics.



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Julie Graves
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