The final two candidates running for the Democratic nomination for governor met Friday night in their first and only debate before the May 22 runoff election.
Former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and Houston businessman Andrew White took the top spots in the March primary. They share many of the same priorities, but have occupied different spaces in the Democratic spectrum. White, the son of former Gov. Mark White, has been viewed as a moderate Democrat. Meanwhile, Valdez, who is seeking to become the Democrats’ first openly gay gubernatorial nominee in Texas, has staked out territory on the liberal side of the party.
Valdez and White covered well-tread ground in the debate at St. James Episcopal Church in East Austin, with moderator and Dallas Morning News political writer Gromer Jeffers questioning candidates on immigration, education, abortion rights and LGBTQ equality.
Still, both candidates provided similar answers. Both said they wouldn’t to arm teachers; both want to increase public school funding; both attacked Texas’ law that targets so-called sanctuary cities; and both want to roll back Republican laws restricting abortions.
The candidates diverged when pressed for specifics on how exactly they’d implement those priorities.
Valdez had been dinged by the Dallas Morning News for showing a lack of understanding in how state government works – specifically the budget process and Texas’ complex school finance system. But her answers on Friday didn’t offer much clarity in the realm of policy. While White put forth a more cogent platform – including a detailed plan to find $9 billion in the current state budget to spend on his priorities – neither candidate could lay out how any of their proposals would make it through a Republican-controlled Legislature.
Valdez came in first place on primary night in March, leading White 43 percent to 27 percent, and she’s received endorsements from several traditional Democratic organizations like the AFL-CIO and Planned Parenthood. White has received the endorsement of the Dallas Morning News, The Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express News.
Early voting begins May 14.
This story has been updated.