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Candidates Vie to Reform Dallas County Sheriff's Office

By Catherine Cuellar, KERA 90.1 Reporter

Dallas, TX –

Catherine Cuellar, KERA 90.1 reporter: The Dallas County Sheriff oversees the jails, which have failed their first state inspection in 20 years and had two escapees and one inmate death this year. The next sheriff will also have to contend with one of the county jails closing in 2006.

Danny Chandler, Republican candidate for Dallas County Sheriff: We kinda kid about, if you put it on eBay, it would be a fixer-upper.

Cuellar: That's Danny Chandler, who beat Dallas County Sheriff Jim Bowles in the Republican primary.

Chandler: I'm backed by virtually every police organization that can endorse a candidate in Dallas County.

Cuellar: Chandler and others claim Bowles is embittered by his loss and is penalizing Chandler supporters within the department. Among the law enforcement groups endorsing Chandler are the Texas Municipal Police Association and Dallas County Sheriff's Association, who support an employee who has asked a judge to remove Bowles before he leaves office. Democratic Party leaders say the effort is an attempt to get Chandler appointed, giving him the incumbent advantage in the last month of the race against Lupe Valdez.

Lupe Valdez, Democratic candidate for Dallas County Sheriff: When there is a corporation that gets results so bad that they have a bad public relations problem, the board of directors usually chooses somebody from the outside to come in and fix the situation. Currently I believe this is the time to bring a new perspective to the sheriff's department.

Cuellar: Valdez is speaking to social workers attending a picnic at Scottish Rite Hospital.

Valdez: I'm excited to see social workers getting involved in politics. You are the spokesperson for the disadvantaged who can't speak for themselves. Believe me, in law enforcement, I've seen your work, and I love it. Thank you for what you do.

Cuellar: Valdez is attending events like these, as well as canvassing neighborhoods like Oak Cliff, where her home and campaign office are located. Chandler, who lives in the Lakewood neighborhood, thanks volunteers at GOP phone banks in North Dallas before knocking on doors with a supporter in Lake Highlands.

Charlotte Crump, Chandler supporter and Lake Highlands resident: Well, I wanted to bring by Danny Chandler.

Rebecca Busby, Lake Highlands resident: How're you? I met you back at the reception.

Danny Chandler: Oh, back in the primary? We carried this precinct back in the primary, and I'd like to have your vote again going into the general election.

Cuellar: Valdez boasts 24 years of law enforcement work, including national and international assignments as Senior Agent in the federal Department of Homeland Security. She also served in the Army National Guard and reserves for more than a decade, leading a mostly male platoon.

Valdez: When somebody says, "Can a woman do this job?," I'd like to point out, excuse me, I was doing it 20 years ago when it wasn't even popular to do that.

Cuellar: Valdez has only two years' experience at the local level. But her supporters include U.S. Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, former Dallas mayor Ron Kirk, Mexican-American Democrats, and the Federal Hispanic Law Enforcement Officers Association. Chandler, who worked in the sheriff's office 29 years, has additional endorsements from two members of the county commissioners court, which approves the sheriff's budget. During the primaries, Chandler's Republican opponents claimed he wouldn't challenge the commissioners who endorsed him. Both candidates agree the victor in this race must quickly solve the department's problems. Scott Guiselman of the Fraternal Order of Police says the winner has complicated work ahead.

Scott Guiselman, Fraternal Order of Police: Regardless of who wins the election in November, if things continue the way they are, it will take years to straighten the department out.

To hear more from the Dallas County Sheriff candidates, watch KERA 13's On the Record Friday, October 1 at 8:30pm or Sunday, October 3 at 11am.

Email Catherine Cuellar about this story.

More resources

KERA's Voter's Voice 2004 coverage

Danny Chandler for Sheriff website

Lupe Valdez for Sheriff website