Dear Beyonce Knowles-Carter, Solange Knowles, Eva Longoria, Alexis Bledel, Natalie Maines, Selena Gomez, Amber Heard, Kelly Clarkson and all of the many extraordinary women entertainers who hail from the Lone Star State:
I was inspired to write you after witnessing the power resulting from the letter sent by 700,000 female farmworkers to the women of Hollywood. As you know, the Time’s Up crowdfunding campaign has now raised nearly $20 million dollars to support victims of sexual harassment and assault by paying legal fees that victims otherwise could not afford.
In these very challenging times, it is clear that when women come together across industries, across tax brackets, across race, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation, the impossible suddenly seems…possible. As Oprah said, “A new day is on the horizon!”
A “War Chest” Against Whom?
Texas Governor Greg Abbott thinks he has already bought the November 6, 2018, gubernatorial election. The first thing anyone ever says about the gubernatorial race here in Texas is that Abbott has raised over $43 million dollars in his re-election “war chest” — implying that anyone challenging him has already lost.
But what we should really be asking is: What has Abbott provided in exchange for that $43 million dollars?
We know that at least $14 million of that “war chest” has come from donations from Abbott’s appointees to state boards and commissions – appointees that are 73.8% white and 70% male. Shocking.
A “war chest” against whom?
- Minority voters
- Immigrants, and
- The transgender community.
In a state ranked 41st in pre-K – 12 education that has the highest rate of repeat teen pregnancy in the country and the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world, Texas Governor Greg Abbott killed the Women’s Health Advisory Committee. Instead, Governor Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, and Attorney General Ken Paxton have focused on trying to pass and implement:
- Senate Bill 8, the latest anti-abortion bill with the Handmaid’s Tale-esque requirement that fetal remains must be cremated or buried;
- Senate Bill 3, the transphobic “bathroom bill”; and
- Senate Bill 4, the “anti-sanctuary cities bill.”
Last year, Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez joined with other sheriffs across the state to write an open letter against SB4 asking the Texas Legislature to do the right thing. As the ACLU reported: “Let’s be clear: Enforcing SB4 is not about safety. The law is about codifying racial profiling into law and putting a target on the backs of people of color across Texas.”
Sheriff Valdez has shared that it was this most recent wave of discriminatory legislation that inspired her to run. “¡Ya basta! Enough!” she has said. She has since called for a repeal of SB4, saying that the legislation has made Texans less safe because immigrants now fear deportation if they report a crime to police.
As you know, Congress has still failed to reauthorize DACA – jeopardizing the security of 800,000 immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. In Texas alone, 234,350 DACA recipients face possible deportation. What many may not know, however, is that back in June 2017, it was Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton who led the group that threatened to sue the Trump administration if DACA wasn’t revoked.
The writing’s on the wall: The old guard in Texas and in the Trump administration feels threatened by the changing demographics of the state and the country and is trying to use fear, intimidation, gerrymandering and discriminatory voter ID laws to disenfranchise Latinos.
Lupe is the Face of Texas
As the youngest of eight children born to migrant farmworkers in San Antonio, Lupe Valdez is truly the face of Texas. After putting herself through college, Lupe joined the U.S. Army where she earned the title of Captain. Lupe then served as a senior agent in the Department of Homeland Security before being elected and re-elected three times as Sheriff of Dallas County – ultimately serving a total of four terms from 2005-2017. Lupe was the only Latina Sheriff in the U.S. and one of very few LGBT Americans serving in public office.
This November, Georgia has the opportunity to elect this country’s first black woman governor in Stacey Abrams. And right here in Texas, we have the opportunity to elect the country’s first gay Latina to the governor’s office in former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez.
Lupe Will Fight for the People of Texas
In a state with a minimum wage of $7.25/hour, Lupe will fight for a living wage of $15/hour.
In a state where women will not see pay equity until 2047 (if current trends continue), Lupe will fight for equal pay.
In a state that chose not to expand Medicaid and thereby deny healthcare to poor and rural communities, Lupe will fight to expand Medicaid and healthcare access.
Lupe will also fight to ensure clean, safe drinking water to colonias and rural communities across the state; pass paid family and sick leave; provide state mental health facilities the funding they need, and make community colleges tuition-free.
Critics say that Lupe shouldn’t run “just because she’s gay and Latina” – that “identity politics” have no place in this country. But what those critics fail to see (or just flat out ignore) is the historical identity politics of white, heterosexual, cisgender men. Whiteness, maleness, and heteronormativity are still somehow invisible to them. Lupe isn’t running on the sole basis that she’s a lesbian Latina. She’s running because, after serving four terms as Dallas County Sheriff, she knows it’s possible for all people to be treated with respect and dignity. It only requires a change in leadership and culture-setting.
Lupe’s top primary opponent, Andrew White – who many Texans consider to be “a conservative Democrat” or “a moderate Republican” depending on who you ask – is a 45-year-old white, heterosexual and “personally pro-life” cisgender man with no record of public service. His qualifications? He’s a wealthy business owner and son of the late Texas Governor Mark White. (Interestingly, Mark White lost to Ann Richards in the 1990 Democratic Primary by 292,030 votes.) While there’s certainly room in the big tent Democratic Party for those who are “personally pro-life”, there is NO room in 2018 Democratic leadership for another man who doesn’t enthusiastically support a woman’s right to choose, who has a record of donating to the GOP and whose church opposes same-sex marriage.
Texas is NOT a Red State; Texas is a Non-Voting State
Republicans here have been highly effective in suppressing minority voters and pushing “red state” rhetoric to the point that it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Just take a look at the March 2016 primaries, for example, 19.92% of registered Republicans turned out to vote compared to just 10.08% of registered Democrats. The bottom line is this: Texas is NOT a red state; Texas is a non-voting state.
But the solution is simple:
- Register more people to vote, and
- Recruit and support candidates that will fight on behalf of people of color, women, LGBT folks, immigrants and the existing Democratic base and thereby enthusiastically drive us to the polls!
Andrew White is NOT going to beat Greg Abbot. But Lupe Valdez could. We just have to make sure she wins the March 6, 2018, primary.
Endorsed by Planned Parenthood & Texas AFL-CIO
From Yvonne Gutierrez, Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Texas Votes: “The actions by the Trump-Pence administration and extreme politicians in the Texas Legislature have fueled an unstoppable grassroots movement determined to fight back. 2017 was about resistance. 2018 is about accountability and taking power. When it comes to support for women’s health, there is no room for negotiating. Whether it’s in the primary election or the general election, we will let the 820,000 Planned Parenthood supporters in Texas know which candidates will stand with them, no matter what.”
I hope you’ll join me in donating to Lupe’s campaign: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/lupeforgovernor.
And remember: Monday, February 5th – is the last day to register to vote in the Texas March primary.