Greg Abbott Needs a Foil to Roil GOP Base for Texas Governor's Race — Is That Lupe Valdez?

With over $40 million in his campaign fund, a free ride in the GOP primary and an electorate that leans heavily Republican, Greg Abbott has managed to chase most potential Democratic rivals out of the 2018 race for governor.But there's no fun in running unopposed.For that and other reasons, Abbott is probably hoping that Democrats manage to field a nominee with at least a tinge of credibility.With all that money and a plan to use his re-election to expand the Republican brand, Abbott needs a punching bag, a barely viable opponent that will put up little resistance and make him look good. Think of boxing legend Joe Louis' "Bum of the Month Club," the collective nickname of his opponents for 13 title defenses from 1939 to 1941.For politicians, tomato can opponents give them an excuse to squeeze more money from donors and rev up campaign machinery that would otherwise be dormant.That's why it wasn't surprising that Dave Carney, Abbott's longtime consultant, told me last week that the governor would be ready for any candidate the Democrats put forward. He's probably hoping they at least get it together to run someone of substance.Of the current contenders in the field, only Houston investor Andrew White, the son of former Gov. Mark White, and Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez would cause Abbott to fully engage in a re-election campaign. The other names putting together bids in the Democratic Party primary are too far on the fringe to get the governor's attention, including Jeffery Payne, a Dallas businessman who said before his campaign kickoff that he wouldn't shy away from his standing as a former Mr. Leather International. That's too easy for Abbott.Abbott probably wants Valdez, a trailblazing Democrat who's been Dallas County sheriff since 2004 and has long had aspirations to run for statewide office.Valdez would probably make the state's new sanctuary cities law, which Abbott badly wanted, a campaign issue. The two have also clashed on whether Valdez's department was effectively cooperating with federal immigration officials. Under Valdez, the jail would no longer hold immigrants who committed minor offenses for more than 48 hours after their release date if federal immigration officials hadn't already retrieved them. Abbott noted he has the power to cut off federal criminal justice funds to cities and counties. He later cut off money to Travis County, though not to Dallas County.  Continue reading...

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