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Valdez And White Debate Ahead Of Runoff For Democratic Nomination For Governor

Lupe Valdez and Andrew White will debate Friday in the runoff for the Democratic nomination for Texas governor.
Robin Jerstad/Marjorie Kamys Cotera via Texas Tribune
Lupe Valdez and Andrew White will debate Friday in the runoff for the Democratic nomination for Texas governor.

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 Newspolitical 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 Newsfor 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 Chronicleand the San Antonio Express News.

Early voting begins May  14.

This story has been updated.

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Ben Philpott covers politics and policy for KUT 90.5 FM. He has been covering state politics and dozens of other topics for the station since 2002. He's been recognized for outstanding radio journalism by the Radio and Television News Directors Association, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated, the Texas Associated Press Broadcasters and twice by the Houston Press Club as Radio Journalist of the Year. Before moving to Texas, he worked in public radio in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, Ala., and at several television stations in Alabama and Tennessee. Born in New York City and raised in Chattanooga, Tenn., Philpott graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in broadcast journalism.