Valdez, Price cruise to re-election in Dallas County

Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez speaks during the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on July 28.
Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez speaks during the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on July 28. Associated Press archives

Veteran Dallas County Democrats Lupe Valdez and John Wiley Price both cruised to re-election Tuesday, but they face vastly different futures.

Valdez, 69, who calls herself the nation’s only Hispanic, lesbian sheriff, handily won her fourth four-year term, beating Republican Kirk Launius.

“I’m blessed,” Valdez said at the Dallas County Democratic Party’s rowdy election night party at the Hyatt Regency. She said she’s looking forward to “continual progress” at the Dallas County Jail, which she said was “basically the shame of Texas” when she took over.

Valdez raised her national profile more than ever this year, giving a widely praised pro-police speech at the Democratic National Convention and flying to New York to meet with Hillary Clinton and a handful of law enforcement leaders about criminal justice.

Even so, Valdez says she has no aspirations for higher office or to seek a federal appointment.

“There is still a lot of work to be done at the Sheriff’s Department,” Valdez said in a prepared statement. “That is where my focus will be for the foreseeable future.”

Price, 66, won re-election to his eighth four-year term as county commissioner in a landslide over Republican S.T. Russell. Price, who isn’t married, said he considers the county his wife and wants to serve as long as voters keep electing him. There are no term limits.

“We entered this marriage 31 years ago and we’ve been good to each other,” Price said. “Still haven’t gotten a divorce.”

But Price faces a looming federal corruption trial set for Feb. 21. Prosecutors accuse him of taking nearly $1 million in bribes from businesses seeking county contracts — charges he denies. If convicted of bribery, tax evasion and mail fraud, Price may face decades in federal prison.

Still, Price said he’s focused on working hard for his constituents — not worrying about the trial, which has been delayed several times since his 2011 indictment.

“That’s what we got courts and lawyers for,” Price said. “It’s been five years, and I’m still doing the same thing.”

Price said he wants to continue managing improvements at Parkland Memorial Hospital, the jail and the county’s mental health services. He wants to mend racial disparities — which he calls “apartheid” — in Dallas County, particularly in housing and transportation opportunities.

Valdez, too, said she wants to stay sheriff as long as the voters want her. She has received high praise from county commissioners for bringing the once-troubled jail into compliance with state and federal regulations. She’ll continue overseeing the jail, which is the second-largest in the state and the seventh-largest in the nation.

She said her priorities will also include correcting wage disparities among her officers, which will be easier with an 8 percent raise they received in this year’s county budget. She also wants to boost community relations along with negotiating grants to fund body cameras for street officers in her department.

County Commissioner Theresa Daniel also easily won re-election over Republican challenger Steven Rayshell.