The first Hispanic female sheriff in Texas is headed to a Democratic runoff against the son of a former governor in their longshot bid to unseat Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.
Former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and Houston investor Andrew White advanced Tuesday from a field of nine largely unknown Democratic primary candidates. The runoff election is May 22.
Texas Democrats haven't won a statewide race since 1994. The party's rising stars in Texas all passed on running for governor after Democrat Wendy Davis lost by 20 points in 2014.
White is the son of former Texas Gov. Mark White, who served one term in the 1980s and died last year. Andrew White is a self-described "conservative Democrat" who has alienated progressives over his personal opposition to abortion.
Valdez would be the first Hispanic and openly gay governor in Texas history.
Whoever becomes the nominee will have a daunting challenge in trying to topple Abbott. He remains the most popular statewide elected official and has a whopping $41 million in his campaign coffers.
Valdez and White did not enter the race until days before the December filing deadline, and by then it was a crowded, muddled affair featuring seven other less-prominent contenders.
The ensuing few months brought out a couple of clear distinctions between the two candidates. As Valdez's fundraising flopped, White emerged as the race's financial leader, buoyed by a $1 million loan to himself but also receiving more contributions than her. White also picked up endorsements from the editorial boards of some of the biggest newspapers in the state, all of which indicated dissatisfaction with Valdez's preparedness and policy knowledge.
Still, she received support from a number of traditionally Democratic groups, such as the Texas AFL-CIO and Planned Parenthood. She also got the endorsement of Joaquin Castro and several other prominent Democratic officials.
It has not been entirely smooth sailing for White, either. Since word of his interest in the race got out in November, he has been dogged by questions about his personal stance against abortion. That makes some Democrats uneasy, though he has insisted he respects a woman's right to choose and has promised he would not pursue further abortion restrictions if elected.
The seven other Democratic gubernatorial candidates on the ballot were Austin businessman James Jolly Clark, former Balch Springs Mayor Cedric Davis, Houston businessman Joe Mumbach, Dallas investment adviser Adrian Ocegueda, Dallas businessman Jeffrey Payne, former congressional candidate Tom Wakely of San Antonio and Grady Yarbrough, a perennial candidate who unexpectedly won the Democratic nomination for railroad commissioner in 2016.