What it takes to win a gubernatorial primary as a Democrat in Texas

AUSTIN (KXAN) -- Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez will officially announce she's running for Texas governor when she makes her announcement at the Texas Democratic Party headquarters in Austin Wednesday.

"From migrant farm worker in a humble family of eight children to U.S. Army captain, federal agent to sheriff, Valdez has dedicated her life to hard work, service, and defending Texans," wrote the Texas Democratic Party in a press release.

"Like so many hardworking Texans, I know it's tough deciding between buying food, finding a decent place to live, and setting aside money for college tuition. Opportunity in Texas ought to be as big as this great state, but it is out of reach for far too many, that's why I'm running for Texas governor," said Valdez, who has worked for Dallas County for 13 years.

She'll run against more than a half dozen candidates in the Democratic Primary.

Incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott was first elected in 2014, defeating Democratic State Sen. Wendy Davis. Records show Abbott has more than $40 million in his war chest.On the same day of Valdez's announcement, Abbott posted a video of the Dallas Police Association endorsing Abbott.

"It's been a merry-go-round for the Texas Democrat Party in their pursuit for a candidate for governor, and after a dizzying search, they have finally fielded a team of far-left liberals ready to battle in the primary," John Wittman, media spokesperson for Greg Abbott, wrote.

"Regardless of who Texas Democrats ultimately nominate for governor, our campaign will be prepared to run on Gov. Abbott's record and policies that have led to more jobs created in Texas in the past year than any other state, the best business climate in America and record low unemployment."

Getting past the Democratic Primary

Sheriff Valdez joins six other candidates in filing for governor (Cedric Davis, Joe Mumbach, Adrian Ocequeda, Jeffrey Payne, Tom Wakely, and Grady Yarbrough). Andrew White will make it a total of eight on Thursday. It will take money, volunteers and name recognition to win and that could narrow the field to White and Valdez.

This week will see a battle between those who want a more progressive future and those who want to go back to a more moderate -- but more successful -- past.

Earlier this year, former Sen. Davis urged Democrats not to support White because he holds some pro-life stances.

But whoever can get support of organized labor, the Hispanic political network and the African-American community will win the primary, says David Butts. He's worked inside Democratic campaigns for nearly 50 years.

"Sort of like, the insiders so we say, they're going to be talking about who's our best choice," said Butts.

In other words, the political activists who show up rain or shine will galvanize support around one candidate, then use their money and volunteers to convince the rest of the party a particular candidate can win.

"Whatever group they are, white, black, brown, Asian and tell them I'm your best chance," said Butts. He predicts future voters will probably tip in favor of Valdez. President Trump, Butts says, has pumped energy into the liberal wing of the Democratic Party and that will show up in March.

"So it's not solely dictated by the candidates as much by that blonde-headed guy in the White House," said Butts.

In 2014, half a million Texans voted in the Democratic primary. Most of those come from the major urban areas and then South Texas, so we'll see Valdez and White campaign there in the weeks ahead.

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