DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Leading up to the Texas primary, CBS 11 has been profiling the major candidates in some of the key races.
While our CBS 11-Dixie Strategies Texas poll found 54 percent of Democrats undecided in the primary race for governor, the two leading contenders, Andrew White, son of former Governor Mark White and former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez received 17 percent and 12 percent support respectively.
During an interview at her Oak Cliff house that she has transformed into her campaign headquarters, she spoke about her statewide campaign. “The challenge is getting out in Texas and getting your name out. You know, one of my jokes is why couldn’t you run for the Governor of Vermont- that would have been a little easier, a little bigger than Dallas County.”
It was a light-hearted moment for Valdez, who’s facing a serious fundraising disadvantage.
State records show she raised about $187,000 from December through the end of February, which includes $25,000 she loaned to her campaign.
Her main challenger, Andrew White, raised nearly $450,000 during that same time and loaned himself more than $1 million.
When asked how she is going to get her message out in this very large state with minimal funds she said, “Grassroots folks are what’s going to win this race. And money is not going to win the March or the November campaign. It’s going to be grassroots and getting out the votes.”
While the Texas economy is booming, Valdez says the Texas brand is suffering after a bruising legislative battle last year over failed bathroom privacy bills. “The end of the last legislative session was extremely discouraging. We need the government to set the tone and set the vision for Texas. So therefore, we need common sense government for the people of Texas.”
Among her top priorities: expanding Medicaid, the health program for the poor. “Of course, who doesn’t want the money. That should be coming to us.”
A State Legislative Budget Board analysis five years ago estimated if Texas expanded Medicaid, it would receive more than $10 billion from the federal government during this and next year.
During that same timeframe, the state would have to spend nearly $900 million of its own money.
And the state’s costs would rise to nearly $1.3 billion for the next two-year budget.
When asked where the state is going to find the money, Valdez said, “We’re already spending a lot of money. Every county hospital in Texas is putting in a lot of funds. We’re already doing that. I don’t think it’s going to be such a big challenge.”
If elected, Valdez says she also wants to boost spending on education so Texas can surpass other states. “We start providing a decent education to everybody. Universal pre-K has got to become a means of the state.”
When asked if tax increases are out of the question, Valdez replied, “Pretty much. I never care about putting a bigger load on the working person.”
Valdez says she would start by taking the $800 million Texas will spend during this and next year on border security and move it elsewhere and let the feds handle the border. “You have gun boats with machine guns, going up and down the Rio Grande. That’s reminiscent of Vietnam and what are they going to do, shoot at the families that are trying to care across. That just doesn’t make sense. We need to put our money where the resources are needed and not just what I often call, boys and their toys.”
To stop rising property taxes, Republican Governor Greg Abbott has proposed capping property tax revenue growth, an idea many cities and counties, and Valdez reject. “I’m not in favor of capping because that’s not what the cities want. The cities have stated and several mayors have told me that hurts their city.”
While Texas now allows the use of marijuana for medical purposes, it doesn’t allow recreational use like an increasing number of other states do.
Valdez though says she is open to the idea. “The people will decide what the law will become. If the people think so, then I’m in favor of it. But again, you can’t push things on people.”
In all, there are nine Democrats running for governor.
Some analysts predict there will be a run-off election in this race between White and Valdez because neither will earn 50 percent +1 of the votes.