Valdez gearing up for re-election bid

Nation’s only lesbian Latina sheriff to seek 3rd term, says she expects to once again be a GOP target

Valdez.Lupe

RIDING HIGH | Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, shown on horseback in this year’s gay Pride parade, is seeking re-election to a third four-year term in 2012. (Chuck Dubel/Dallas Voice)

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Political Writer
wright@dallasvoice.com

Seven years ago, she became the first female, first Hispanic and — of course — the first openly LGBT person elected sheriff of Dallas County.

She remains the only lesbian Latina sheriff in the nation, and she’s one of only two female sheriffs in the state.

But as she prepares to seek a third four-year term in 2012, Lupe Valdez said she no longer gives much thought to her pioneering status.

“I don’t even pay attention to that anymore,” the 64-year-old Valdez said recently. “What I want to hear is, ‘She’s a good sheriff.’ What I want to hear is, ‘She’s making a difference.’ What I want to hear is, ‘Changes are for the better.’ That’s what I want to hear. It doesn’t matter whether I’m Latina or lesbian or whatever I am. The important thing is that we put in place a good, functioning sheriff’s department, which is what we’ve done.”

In 2004, Valdez was one of four Democrats — along with three judges — who broke a Republican lock on countywide elected office. Her victory over Republican Danny Chandler shook the Dallas establishment and served as a harbinger to the countywide Democratic sweep of 2006.

Since then, the county has remained solidly blue, and with President Barack Obama again atop the ballot, the incumbent sheriff is a heavy favorite to win re-election.

But Valdez, long a preferred target for Republicans as they seek to win back the county, said she isn’t taking anything for granted. For one, there are rumors she could again face a challenge in the Democratic Primary — as she did in 2008.

The candidate filing period begins Nov. 28 and runs through Dec. 15.

“I’m worried about both,” Valdez said when asked whether she’s more concerned about the primary or the general election. “I don’t ever assume anything. That’s how you lose, so I never assume anything. I’m really hoping that I don’t have a primary opponent.”

Not having a challenger from within the party would allow her to “focus and save money and go ahead and gather more money so I can hit whatever’s coming on” in November, Valdez said. She confirmed recent reports saying her fundraising is lagging and that she’s failed to amass much of a war chest.

“We all know that I’m going to be the [GOP’s] target for Dallas County,” Valdez said. “Last time I was the target for the state of Texas. I wouldn’t doubt that’s going to be the case again.”

“We know there’s a pendulum switch every so often,” she added. “I’m not going to assume anything, because I may be right on that pendulum.

“And even in 2004, when a lot of Republicans were elected, I was elected. So that says to me, whichever way it goes, I need to work so that I can get elected. I don’t assume anything. The only thing that I’m assuming is that I’m going to work as hard as I possibly can.”

The only Republican who’s publicly declared his intent to run for sheriff, former State Rep. Thomas Latham, said this week he doesn’t believe Dallas County is as blue as some may think.

“I think what this county has is a large number of swing voters,” Latham said. “I think the flow is going the other way.”
Latham said he believes Valdez’s Republican challenger in 2008, Lowell Cannaday, “got caught up in the Obama situation.”

“There was so much enthusiasm for him [Obama], and I don’t think that enthusiasm exists any longer,” Latham said. “I think the enthusiasm is now on the other side.”

Latham, 64, a former commander for the Garland Police Department, called Valdez “a nice lady” but said she doesn’t have the experience to effectively oversee the department.

“I think there’s a lack of leadership in the sheriff’s department,” Latham said. “I think there are some management issues down there that need to be addressed.”

In each of her previous election campaigns, Valdez has come under attack for her sexual orientation, and she said she fully expects that to happen again in 2012.

“What can they attack me on?” she said. “They can’t say I’m not doing my job … so what are they going to attack me on? ‘She’s a lesbian and she’s trying to push the gay agenda.’ Please tell me what the gay agenda is, so I can figure out how not to push it.”

Latham, for his part, said he doesn’t plan to bring up Valdez’s sexual orientation and doesn’t think it’s an issue in the race.

But he added that if someone else brings it up, he’ll respond by saying, “I wasn’t raised that way.”

Asked what he meant by that, Latham said: “I’m Southern Baptist. Southern Baptists don’t believe in that.”

LUPE VALDEZ’S CAMPAIGN KICKOFF
6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 8
Conduit Gallery
1626-C Hi Line Drive
www.LupeValdez.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 25, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Gay-owned Ranch Hand Rescue continues saving farm animals through brutally cold weather

Starlight

Ranch Hand Rescue is a sanctuary for abused and neglected farm animals. They have been removed from their current situation by a county humane officer, sheriff or law enforcement official.

In December, we wrote about a fundraiser for the organization to help owner Bob Williams feed and give the animals the medical care they need. Their goal was $10,000 and they raised more than $15,000.

“The place was packed,” Williams said.

This past week was a particularly difficult one for them because of the cold weather.

“Our animals still need their medications and feeding,” Williams said.

Frozen pipes and additional staff increased costs.

—  David Taffet

What’s Brewing: R.I. gay marriage bill, sports columnist comes out, Neil Patrick Harris

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. On Wednesday we told you how Rhode Island’s new governor, Lincoln Chafee, called for marriage equality during his inaugural address. Well, it turns out that Rhode Island legislators plan to introduce a same-sex marriage bill today, and Chafee’s support is crucial to their strategy. The Human Rights Campaign says Rhode Island is one of three states — along with Maryland and New York — where marriage equality is possible this year. At the same time, there’s been a marriage equality bill introduced in Rhode Island’s Assembly every year since 1997, but none has ever made it to a floor vote.

2. Longtime Boston Herald sports columnist Steve Buckley came out as gay in a column published today. Buckley says he regrets that he told his mother he would come out seven years ago, but then she died and he kept putting it off — until now. “It’s my hope that from now on I’ll be more involved” in the LGBT community, Buckley writes. “I’m not really sure what I mean by being ‘involved,’ but this is a start: I’m gay.”

3. Neil Patrick Harris wins People’s Choice Award, recognizes husband and kids on stage (video above).

—  John Wright

Riding for fitness, riding to make a difference

TARA DANNEHL Team Dallas Voice

TARA DANNEHL Team Dallas Voice
TARA DANNEHL Team Dallas Voice

Look out 150 miles, here I come!

My name is Tara Dannehl, and I am very proud to be apart of the 10-year anniversary Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS!

Life for me revolves around health and fitness. So when I was asked to participate in this year’s ride, there was no reason in my mind to say no.

My friend and SPIN professional, Arlen Miller, is the man that got me on a road bike. I know Arlen from The Texas Club located indowntown Dallas, where I am a personal trainer and group fitness instructor.

I have been working as a trainer and instructor for seven years. I get fulfillment in aiding and watching the changes people make in their lives for the better.

Many of my clients have come to me for assistance in reaching personal goals of completing a half or full marathon, a triathlon and other distance events of running or biking. I’ve also had some friends starting running for the first time in their lives to raise money for charities dear to them.

And finally, it is my time. I decided that if all these individuals of different ages and abilities can achieve such incredible goals that I needed to make one for myself.

I’ve always enjoyed bike riding and the outdoors. I have spent my time on a hybrid mountain bike, so at the beginning, I didn’t really think there would be much difference in a road bike — wrong! I’ll share that experience with all of you hardcore road bikers in just a second.

Next, I am going to brag about the wonderful bike loaner program.

I was so eager for the ride and this new experience, but I didn’t have a road bike. So Arlen put me in touch with David Minehart and the Loan Star Locker.

And I was set! I now have a wonderful, royal blue Marin to put my miles on.

I took it to the shop and after a little touch up and some new clip shoes, I was almost ready to begin putting miles on the odometer.

While the bike was in the shop, I took my clips and began regularly attending a spin class at the gym. I also would hop on the spin bike in my spare time. I wanted to get comfortable with the clips and felt this would be good practice.

Once I picked up my bike, I must admit that it spent a few days in the garage as I dealt with some small anxiety about this new experience, clips and all, that was looming in the back of my mind.

Then one beautiful Saturday morning, my husband and I finally geared up and headed out. Wow! It was such a completely different experience than what I was used to from a mountain bike!

That first ride was great. What made it even better was that I hit the one stop light between our house and the lake while it was green, both ways, and didn’t have to unclip.

Yes, I told you I was anxious!

But not to worry fellow LSR bikers, as I have been practicing with my clips. I will be a pleasant and respectful rider with you on this amazing 150 mile ride.

Yes, 150 miles — I can’t wait!

The icing on the cake for me is that this experience is an opportunity to raise money for organizations fighting AIDS and supporting those affected by HIV/AIDS.

The Lone Star Organization reaches out to so many and continuous support is needed to make significant progress in research and education. It is an incentive to be backed by family, friends and acquaintances to raise money for an organization such as this one.

I am ready to hit the road and be apart of the 10-year anniversary ride this September. It is going to be an experience of a lifetime, and it will be so wonderful to share it with so many other supportive riders and crew.

Thank you to the organization and those that have gotten me this far. I especially appreciate my husband for going on practice rides with me and my parents for believing in me.

See you on the road! Go LSR 2010!

Tara Dannehl is a member of Team Dallas Voice. Donate to her by going online to LoneStarRide.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 13, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas