Lupe Valdez becomes first openly gay major-party nominee for Texas governor
Valdez joins the ranks of LGBT pioneers in U.S. politics
May 29, 2018
AUSTIN — Lupe Valdez defeated Andrew White in Tuesday’s Democratic runoff for governor, making political history in a couple of ways.
Valdez, the former Dallas County sheriff, became the first Hispanic female and first openly gay Texan to win a major party’s gubernatorial nomination.
White, a Houston businessman and son of the late Gov. Mark White, held steady in early returns but was overwhelmed as the evening wore on.
Valdez now faces the vastly better known and more experienced Republican incumbent, Gov. Greg Abbott.
Valdez, 70, struggled to master state policy issues and instill confidence among political insiders that she could somehow block Abbott’s confident glide into a second term.
But she dismissed naysayers as underestimating her populist appeal.
The daughter of migrant farm workers, Valdez said she’d been underestimated all her life — and would surprise again.
Her victory over White, though, was surprisingly narrow.
It raised questions about the potency of her brand of identity politics. On the campaign trail, Valdez often has stressed she’s female, Hispanic and lesbian.
She failed to crush White, however, in spite of enjoying support from labor, Planned Parenthood and other mainstays of the state Democratic Party’s wobbly infrastructure.
The closeness of the runoff vote raised questions about whether White should’ve spent more of his money, sooner.
Valdez was not party leaders’ first choice as they tried to woo younger Hispanic and black hopefuls into the governor’s race last year.
Valdez enters the general election as the underdog.
Still, she could make even more history than she already has if she knocks off Abbott.
Texas has had two Roman Catholic governors — Abbott and Francis Lubbock, who was governor from 1861 to 1863.
Both, though, converted to Catholicism after marrying Catholics, Jillson noted.
“No born Catholic has ever been governor of Texas,” he said. “Lupe would be the first.”
Pioneer LGBT politicians in the U.S.
- Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin was the first openly lesbian member of the Wisconsin Assembly when she was elected in 1993. In 1999, she became the first openly gay person elected to the House of Representatives.
- Gerry Studds (1937-2006) was the first openly gay member of Congress, though he was outed after a 1983 scandal wherein he had a relationship with a 17 year-old male congressional page. He married his long-time partner Dean T. Hara on May 24, 2004, in Boston.
- Former Arizona Congressman Jim Kolbe came out as gay in 1996. He became the first gay person to ever speak at the Republican National Convention in 2000.
- Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline is openly gay. He served as Mayor of Providence, Rhode Island from 2003 to 2011, and was the first openly gay mayor of a state capital.