"I'm in", Lupe Valdez said Wednesday morning in Austin as she announced her candidacy for governor of Texas.
"Like so many hardworking Texans, I know it's tough deciding between buying food, finding a decent place to live, and setting aside money for college tuition".
"I'm a proud Texas Democrat. I believe good government can make people's lives better, and I intend to do just that".
Valdez faces an uphill battle in a state that hasn't elected a Democrat to statewide office in more than 20 years, against an incumbent, Gov. Greg Abbott, who trounced Wendy Davis with almost 60 percent of the vote in 2014. Other Democrats weighing a run, however, include Andrew White, son of late Gov. Mark White, former San Antonio congressional candidate Tom Wakely, and Dallas businessman Jeffrey Payne. Valdez is one of only two female sheriffs in the state, and she is the only openly-gay female sheriff in Texas. Talk of Valdez running for governor heated up last week, when Dallas media reported she had submitted her resignation ahead of a likely bid.
Valdez has been the sheriff of Dallas County for 12 years.
Abbott has no serious GOP primary challenger and already has more than $50 million in his reelection war chest, his campaign aides say. But Davis lost to Abbott by 20-points.
Republicans said Wednesday her positions will make her an easy target for Abbott, who polls show riding a wave of popularity despite his support of several divisive issues during this year's legislative session, including the so-called bathroom bill that pitted conservatives against business interests in Texas. Her statement drew harsh criticism from Governor Abbott who said, "sanctuary city policies like those promoted by your recent decision to implement your own case-by-case immigrant detention plan will no longer be tolerated in Texas".
In Valdez, 70, Democrats are now putting up a far different candidate: a one-time migrant worker and Army veteran with more than 40 years in law enforcement. "We're going to have the people".
Abbott's campaign did not have any immediate reaction to Valdez's candidacy.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins reacted to the announcement Wednesday via Twitter, thanking Valdez for her leadership.
Valdez brushed off the endorsement, suggesting to reporters that it does not reflect the view of the full membership of the association.