Democratic candidate for governor Lupe Valdez calls for increased minimum wage, end to death penalty

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Lupe Valdez sat down Thursday with Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith for her most in-depth interview since entering the race in early December.

Valdez is considered one of the frontrunners to win the nomination to challenge Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in November. On Thursday, she spelled out some policy positions and avoided criticizing one of her main competitors for the nomination, Houston businessman Andrew White. 

Here are several highlights:

Raise the minimum wage

As governor, Valdez promised to try to raise the minimum wage in Texas, which is currently $ 7.25 an hour. She said the state should “start out with a livable wage.” Pressed for a specific figure, Valdez suggested “somewhere between $ 12 and $ 15” per hour.

Open to a tax increase

Valdez said she was open to pursuing a tax increase to generate more state revenue — “if necessary.” However, she made clear she would not support a state income tax in Texas.

“Happy medium” on immigration

Valdez said there is a “happy medium” in the discussion about whether undocumented immigrants should be deported, expressing sympathy for those who come to the country seeking a better quality of life.

“People who murder, steal, rape, abuse — that’s not giving you a better quality of life,” Valdez said. “So those — I have no problem sending them somewhere else.”

Avoiding negative campaigning

White, a Houston entrepreneur and the son of late Gov. Mark White, is one of Valdez’s higher-profile primary rivals.  She argued that her tenure as sheriff gives her more relevant experience than he does, but declined to criticize him on an issue that has put him at odds with some Democrats — his contention that he is “personally pro-life” but respects a woman’s right to choose.

“I don’t have to beat up a person to beat them,” Valdez said, while emphasizing she believes no one should be told what to do with their body.

Against the death penalty

Like White, Valdez said she supports ending the death penalty in Texas, expressing concern about cases of wrongful execution.

“We cannot be in a situation where we risk killing an innocent person,” Valdez said.

Raising campaign funds

Asked about her paltry fundraising so far — she raised just $ 46,000 in the first few weeks of her campaign — Valdez insisted that she did not prioritize it because she still had to serve as sheriff through Jan. 31.

“You need to continue to take care of the department, and I did that until the very last day,” she said. Since then, she added, she’s been raising about $ 300 to $ 500 a day. Her campaign later clarified that the rate is much higher.

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