*Editor’s note: This story has been updated throughout.
Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez announced Wednesday morning that she is running for governor, giving Texas Democrats a serious candidate for the top job with five days until the candidate filing deadline for the 2018 primaries.
“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,” Valdez said in a statement. “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. I’m a proud Texas Democrat. I believe good government can make people’s lives better, and I intend to do just that.”
Valdez’s campaign said she will deliver remarks and file for governor at 11:45 a.m. at the Texas Democratic Party headquarters in Austin.
Until Wednesday, six little-known Democrats had filed to challenge Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who is seeking a second term in 2018. Andrew White, the son of late Gov. Mark White, has been exploring a run for weeks and is set to announce his campaign Thursday in Houston.
Any Democrat running for governor faces a steep climb against Abbott, who easily defeated the party’s 2014 nominee, Wendy Davis, and has built a $ 40 million-plus war chest for re-election. Texas has not elected a Democrat to statewide office in over two decades.
Valdez is serving her fourth term as sheriff of Dallas County, the second most populous county in the state and a Democratic stronghold. She drew national attention when she was first elected in 2004 as the state’s first openly gay female Hispanic sheriff.
Abbott and Valdez are not unfamiliar with one another. In 2015, they butted heads over her department’s policy regarding compliance with federal immigration authorities — a debate that later cropped up in Travis County and became the driving force behind the “sanctuary cities” bill that Abbott signed into law earlier this year.
Under the Texas Constitution, certain elected officials, including sheriffs, must immediately step down once they declare their candidacy for another office. Valdez’s campaign said she will “officially notify” Dallas County commissioners of her decision to run for governor this morning.
Valdez told The Texas Tribune a month ago that she was looking at the possibility of challenging Abbott. Talk of Valdez running for governor heated up last week, when Dallas media reported she had submitted her resignation ahead of a likely bid. Her office denied that, saying she was still “considering the next stage in her career.”