Staff Writer cityXtra Magazine
A lesbian sheriff is trying to become governor in the deeply right-wing state of Texas.
Guadalupe “Lupe” Valdez, a four-term sheriff, will be running as a Democrat in the primaries this year, and is expected to win.
Valdez is part of a wave of LGBT candidates, with 35 out people expected to run for public office in Texas this year, according to OutSmart.
That figure – which has been seen as part of a backlash against President Donald Trump’s regressive policies – is around twice as many as the current record of LGBT candidate in an election cycle.
The total includes Valdez’s Democratic rival for Governor, Jeffrey Payne, a former International Mr Leather who owns the famous Dallas gay leather fetish bar The Eagle.
In response to Valdez’s announcement, Payne said: “The fact that in the state of Texas, a gay man and a lesbian can seek the highest office in the state is amazing, and shows how far we have come as a society.
“This is a proud moment in Texas history, as far as I see it.”
Defeating anti-gay Republican incumbent Greg Abbott will be another matter for Valdez – but it’s a worthy cause, considering Abbott’s anti-gay history.
Last year, Abbott said that passing a bill to stop transgender people using public bathrooms was his top priority.
He was a leading voice in backing a frenzy of anti-LGBT legislation in Texas, after the Trump administration ended Obama-era legal resistance from the federal government against discriminatory state laws in North Carolina.
Abbott is still popular in the deeply Republican state, but Valdez remains confident.
“We’re giving people hope,” Valdez, 70, told LA Times.
“A lot of people have written off Texas.”
Before she came out, Valdez was in the Women’s Army Corps, at a time when her friends who were gay – or even seen at gay bars – were dishonorably discharged.
When she first ran for sheriff in 2004, she was expected to lose heavily.
Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said: “She ran for sheriff in a county that did not have a single countywide official that was a Democrat and hadn’t for 20 years.
“She ran against an incumbent sheriff. She did not have any experience running for office.
“Few people, if any, gave her any chance of winning,” he added.
She won, by 51% to 49%, and steadily increased her margin of victory in subsequent votes. Last year, she won her third election by 59% to 37%.
She said that turning out minority votes was key to this widening gap between her and her Republican challengers.
Her run comes after the surprising victory in the race for Alabama’s US Senate seat by Democrat Doug Jones over homophobic Republican Roy Moore, who was accused by nine women of sexual misconduct, including child molestation.
The win has raised hopes for Democrats seeking to win in traditionally red states – like Texas.