Several hundred supporters gathered at Tyler Station in Oak Cliff on Sunday, Jan. 7, as Lupe Valdez kicked off her campaign for Texas governor.

Valdez began her speech joking about no one recognizing her out of uniform. She resigned as Dallas County sheriff, a poisition she’s held since 2005, to run for governor.

She criticized the current governor and lieutenant governor saying, “The people who were supposed to be serving us were doing more harm than good.”

She called bathroom bills, voter fraud and sanctuary cities “made up issues.” Gov. Greg Abbott used the sanctuary cities debate in the Legislature to directly attack Valdez who said at the time she hadn’t refused any request from INS.

“Our children are in cramped and crowded classrooms,” she said. “Our roads and bridges need attention.” And she called healthcare a top priority for the state rather than the “made up issues” Republicans have been focusing on.

Valdez said she would “bring common sense back to government” and run “a campaign that gives hope to all.”

“I want to be the candidate that makes the difference for Texas,” she said, “and find solutions to real issues.”

In the introductory remarks, one supporter announced the formation of Vets for Valdez. Democratic Party activist Regina Montoya called Valdez “a tenacious mentor and role model,” and an “amazing” and “proven leader.”

The Rev. Eric Folkerth, pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church, recalled when his wife, the Hon. Dennise Garcia, Valdez and five other Democratic candidates first ran for office in 2004 began the tide of turning Dallas County blue.

“We’re at that time with our whole state,” Folkerth said.

In the March 6 primary Valdez faces nine opponents including gay businessman Jeffrey Payne. If she wins the nomination, she’d be the first Hispanic lesbian former sheriff to be a major party candidate for governor of any state. If one candidate doesn’t receive at least 50 percent of the vote in the primary, a runoff between the top two candidates takes place on May 22.

— David Taffet