Texas is picking a governor in November, though a tight U.S. Senate race has made that contest easy to overlook.
As the race for Republican Sen. Ted Cruz’s seat gets airtime on late-night talk shows and the attention of President Donald Trump, who is planning to hold a rally for the incumbent, the choice for governor in the nation’s second-largest state has been a whisper by comparison.
Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is a heavy favorite to win another term. On Friday night he will debate Democratic challenger Lupe Valdez, the former sheriff of Dallas, for the first and only time before Election Day. It puts a brief spotlight on a race that has drawn little attention in Texas, is a looming landslide according to some polls and had been ignored nationally by outside groups.
“It’s been one of the most uninteresting races for governor in my memory,” said Harold Cook, a Democratic political consultant who was an adviser to former Texas Gov. Ann Richards in the 1990s.
It’s a far cry from the intensity of the Senate race. Polls show Rep. Beto O’Rourke with at least a chance to defeat Cruz and become Texas’ first Democrat elected to the Senate in 30 years. The unexpectedly close gap has fueled attacks, energized big rallies and made for the most expensive Senate race in the country.
On Saturday, O’Rourke is set to perform with country legend Wille Nelson, piling onto the fanfare. Campaigning is also fierce in congressional districts in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio where Republican incumbents are at risk.
But that urgency has been hard to come by in the race for governor, which speaks to both Abbott’s dominant position and Valdez’s struggles. Few incumbents in the 36 governor races this year more hold more advantages than Abbott, who cruised to his first election by 20 points in 2014 and continued to raise millions of dollars throughout his first term.
In Texas, Valdez is a trailblazing candidate: she was Texas’ first Hispanic female sheriff before stepping down from the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department last year to run for governor, a job few prominent Democrats wanted after Abbott crushed Democrat Wendy Davis four years ago.
Valdez is the daughter of migrant farmworkers, but her record of working with federal immigration agents as sheriffs turned off young Hispanic activists . she has raised little money and has not aired television ads. In July, Abbott reported having nearly $29 million in the bank — more than 100 times more than Valdez .
Powerful national groups have also stayed away. Emily’s List, a prominent Democratic political actional committee that spends millions of dollars trying to elect more women to office, doesn’t include Valdez among its eight gubernatorial endorsements for 2018. The group did not respond to an email with questions about Valdez, but on Friday announced that it had endorsed a new slate of Texas legislative candidates.
Valdez spokesman Juan Bautista Dominguez noted they did have the support of a group called Annie’s List, which works to elect progressive Texas women. He also said the campaign would eventually air television ads were “in the works” but would not go into more detail.
Source: The Associated Press