Lesbian incumbent Lupe Valdez struggles to raise money for race against Republican Kirk Launius, who expresses support for LGBTs


RIDING HIGH   | Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez appears on horseback in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade on Sunday, Sept. 16. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

ANNA WAUGH  |  Staff Writer

Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez says her re-election to a third term could come down to the money she can raise to reach voters — many of whom, she says, don’t even know she’s on the ballot.

“Nobody knows I’m running,” Valdez told Dallas Voice this week. “I don’t know if the word hasn’t got out or they just assume that I’m going to be sheriff, but it’s dangerous when people do not know you’re on the ticket.”

Valdez said campaign funds were low before the primary but since then she’s been “picking up a little in the fundraising.” Yard signs were just going out this week, so many people haven’t seen advertising or mailers that she’s up for re-election.

Valdez, Dallas County’s first female, first Hispanic and first lesbian sheriff, started the shift in turning Dallas County blue in 2004. Although her first campaign was difficult because few people knew her, she said her 2008 campaign boomed with financial support because of her record in the sheriff’s office. But she worries now that voters have assumed the county will stay blue and donate less and less.

“It’s difficult right now. I would hate to think it’s because Dallas is turning more Democratic that a lot of the folks that give money are placing a lot of their money outside of the county,” she said. “They’re concerned about the Senate race and they’re concerned about the presidential race. I hope it’s not the fact that everybody thinks we’ve turned Democrat.”

The Republican candidate for sheriff, Kirk Launius, is a Navy veteran and former Dallas police officer who owns a security company with two business partners. He said he’d like to get back into law enforcement and wants to bring better morale and stronger leadership to the sheriff’s department.

“Dallas is my home. It’s always been my home,” he said. “I just love my city and I love serving people and that’s how I view this job as a public servant.”

Launius said fundraising has been a challenge because of the focus on the presidential race, as well as congressional and senatorial races.

As for the LGBT community, Launius said he knows many LGBT people and would work to serve all of Dallas’ communities if elected.

“I have a lot of friends in that community,” he said. “I love my friends. That’s a really personal decision on their part. …I think I’d be a good representative for the whole community.”

Valdez was a target of anti-gay attacks during her first two campaigns, but said she hasn’t seen any this cycle.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s stuff out there,” she said. “Last time there’s was so much of that it was unreal.”

Valdez said she will always be a political target because she is Hispanic, lesbian and a Democrat.

“I will always have an opponent because of all the strikes against me,” she said. “I don’t think it has anything to do with how I’m doing my job. …I think there’s a certain segment that will never look beyond that.”

She said Republicans are gunning for her because many Democrats only won their races in 2010 by less than half a percentage point.

“If it’s that close on some of our candidates, there’s a reason for the other side to fight,” she said, adding that she’s just trying to keep up with Launius in fundraising. “Even though we’re not raising as much money as we should to run a decent campaign, as long as I’m keeping up with him, I’m OK.”

Rob Schlein, president of Metroplex Republicans of Dallas, said many donors are supporting presidential nominee Mitt Romney or Ted Cruz’s Senate campaign. Schlein said Launius has spoken to his group and he thinks most members will vote for him.

“I think he’ll make an excellent sheriff and the question comes down to confidence and qualifications,” he said.

Schlein said many Dallas County races were close two years ago, so Republicans are gearing up to win offices back in November, especially with a lack of enthusiasm for President Barack Obama — who carried many local Democratic politicians in 2008.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if Dallas County went red this cycle because of the strong will to defeat Obama and with Romney at the top of the ticket,” he said.

Traci Clinton, political chair for Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, said there has been donor burnout among both parties locally because Republicans didn’t break the Democratic majority in 2010, but Democrats didn’t win by much. He said the strong focus on the presidential campaign could help Democrats in Dallas County because more people vote during presidential elections.

Clinton said complacency among voters is misguided because grassroots organizations are out there and spreading their message to shift the county’s power to the Republicans, and people still need to donate and focus on important races up until election day.

“It’s not in the bag,” he said about Democratic races. “We’re looking better than a few months ago, but we’re not done yet.”

Valdez agrees that her work is not done and said she’ll keep striving to inform voters that she’s on the ticket and needs funds. And if people can’t give her campaign a check, she said she’ll manage if she can still win their vote.

“It’s important that the GLBT community get out and vote. Apathy is my worst enemy,” Valdez said. “We’re hurting for money but we can probably do without that if the people would just get out and vote.”


Stonewall fundraiser

A fundraiser for Sheriff Lupe Valdez and Dallas County Commissioners Court
candidate Theresa Daniel is from 7-9 p.m.
Monday, Sept. 24, at the Round-Up Saloon,
3912 Cedar Springs Road. For more info,
visit StonewallDemocratsOfDallas.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 21, 2012.