Dallas’ 1st lesbian sheriff to defend her job record
With the 2008 general election still 15 months away, the Dallas County sheriff’s race already is showing signs of getting nasty.
Local Republicans, still reeling from the results of November 2006, have taken square aim at Democratic Sheriff Lupe Valdez, who in 2004 became the first member of her party to capture the post in 30 years.
And Valdez also the first woman, the first lesbian and the first Hispanic to serve as Dallas County sheriff isn’t backing away from a fight.
“The comment has been, “‘She’s the one who started it, we’ve got to bring her down to prove it’s not happening,’” Valdez said, referring to Republicans’ reaction to recent Democratic gains. “I’m the target, and what happens when you’re the target? They will find anything and everything. When people are desperate, they will do anything to get back to where they were, and I think desperate measures will come out. We just have to be ready to meet the challenge.”
As for right now, the challenge may seem a little daunting.
Republicans and other opponents have seized upon recent media reports detailing issues related to Valdez’s department.
“It’s really a poor situation,” said Mark Walz, executive director of the Dallas County Republican Party. “Lupe Valdez has done literally nothing to address the problems at the jail. She has completely mismanaged her prisoners, her budget and her staff, and it’s clear to everyone in Dallas County that the sheriff’s department needs new management.”
Three Republicans already have indicated they plan to run for sheriff. They are former Irving Police Chief Lowell Cannaday, Cockrell Hill Police Chief Catherine Smit and Mesquite Police Lt. Charlie Richmond. Valdez also will face at least one opponent in the March Democratic primary Peter Schulte, a county prosecutor and political newcomer.
“Anything is better than the current sheriff, and we will definitely have a well-qualified and well-funded Republican candidate who can take back the sheriff’s department and put it back in order,” Walz said.
In an interview with Dallas Voice on Wednesday, Aug. 8, Valdez addressed several of the recent media reports specifically. In general, she said she’s been forced to deal with a the mess she inherited from previous administrations in the face of inadequate funding from the Commissioners Court.
She also said there are many who would prefer to keep the status quo.
“We continue to make progressive changes,” she said. “Is there a group that doesn’t want this? Of course. Any change brings about resistance.”
Perhaps the most vicious attack against Valdez thus far came in the form of Dallas County Republican Party Chairman Kenn George’s recent post on the party’s Web site. The post compared Valdez to former Precinct 5 Constable Mike Dupree, who resigned in June amid allegations of sexual harassment and pleaded to a misdemeanor charge of abusing his official capacity.
“From Constable Mike Dupree to Sheriff Lupe Valdez, the Democrats’ record on law enforcement in Dallas County is disgraceful,” the post read. “We have tried repeatedly to warn voters about the dangers of electing unqualified and unprincipled Democrats to important county offices.”
Kirk McPike, Valdez’s campaign manager, said he believes the post was designed to draw attention to the fact the sheriff is a lesbian. Dupree is gay.
During her campaign four years ago, Valdez was criticized by both her Republican opponent, Danny Chandler, and the ultraconservative Eagle Forum as being likely to promote a “prohomosexual agenda.”
“It is so obvious on its face that they are trying to appeal to sort of an anti-gay mindset with these quotes and these personal attacks,” McPike said of George’s post. “I think it’s really indicative of where the Republican Party is in Dallas County and nationally that this is all they have left. It’s really sad.”
Salz, meanwhile, defended the post, saying it has nothing to do with Valdez’s sexual orientation.
“I think that if you look at it, the local Democrats’ track record in our justice system is a joke, and they’re the two most shining examples of why you need change,” Salz said. “Her campaign manager is incorrect.”
As for Valdez, she said she is unsure whether the fact she’s a lesbian will again be an issue in the race.
“I don’t know what the homosexual agenda is,” she said. “My agenda is fairness and equality and law enforcement for all people.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 10, 2007