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Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez Recalls Her First Election: ‘I Thought I Had Lost’

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Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez fools around with her friend, Claudio Taffer, before going inside the StoryCorps MobileBooth.

The StoryCorps MobileBooth is in Dallas, and for the next few weeks, we’ll hear some of the stories being shared by North Texans. Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez recently stopped by the booth.

When Valdez first ran for office in 2004, she was an unknown – and had a lot going against her. She was considered “an outsider”: she was a female, Democrat, Latina and a lesbian. Valdez sat down with her friend, Claudio Taffer, to talk about that first election.

“Nobody had ever heard of me, and all of a sudden, I come up – a minority, Hispanic, lesbian,” Valdez says.

She was approached to run on the Democratic ticket in 2004. Valdez knew being a lesbian would be a tough sell in Texas.

She remembers the night of the election, when her niece was helping her get last-minute votes in the cold. Valdez thought she had lost the race after she received early voting numbers from her campaign.

“Almost in tears, I turn to my niece and say, ‘we’re losing,’” she recalls. “The person on the other end of the phone was yelling, ‘no, Lupe! You don’t understand – this is just early votes. You’re within two points of reaching [Danny Chandler]. That means you could pass him during the election.’”

Later that night, Valdez was surprised when she passed her opponent. Coming from a family of migrant workers, she wasn’t expected to even finish school, much less run for public office.

“[My niece] knew how hard I had worked to get through college and now, we’re standing here and somebody’s saying, ‘you just beat the system. The good ol’ boys system has just been toppled,’” she says.

About StoryCorps

The booth is at the AT&T Performing Arts Center in the Dallas Arts District through Dec. 20. StoryCorps is a national initiative to record and collect stories of everyday people. Excerpts were selected and produced by KERA. Learn more here.

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.