Greg Abbott got the candidate he wanted after all. In the runoff to decide who will face Governor Abbott and his obscene stack of cash in November, deeply flawed candidate Lupe Valdez squeaked by the deeply flawed Andrew White. As soon as the race was called, Dave Carney, one of Abbott’s political handlers, went giddy on Twitter (“Are there mercy rules in political campaigns?”) Meanwhile, Abbott released an attack ad on Valdez called “Wrong for Texas.” (She wants to raise taxes, etc etc.) I’m sure the Abbott campaign used some of its $41 million in cash on hand to prep an ad for White, just in case. But it’s been obvious for months that Abbott was salivating to run against the former Dallas County sheriff, with her propensity for word salads. (Or what she’s termed “people language.”)
There’s little doubt that either Valdez or White would face long odds against Abbott. But Valdez offers a particularly juicy foil for the Texas GOP. She’ll be tarred as the bumbling face of “sanctuary cities” and an abortion enthusiast (she said “abortion is health care” during the recent debate with White). Abbott will spend lavishly to turn Valdez into a proxy for every other Democrat up and down the ballot. Watch closely how Abbott will dogwhistle about a Latina who is pro-open borders or whatever. It’s a fear-based script that will surely be used in the suburbs that are battlegrounds for the four or five contested congressional districts and the half-dozen or state House seats.
Valdez has some work to do with the Democratic base. She inexplicably alienated a leading Latino group and lost an endorsement from a Houston LGBT organization, and some local Democratic leaders waited until the last minute to endorse her. Wendy Davis set a new low for a Texas Democrat, losing the governor’s race by 20 points in 2014. Valdez can’t do worse than that, right?