The two Democrats facing the uphill battle of winning the race for Texas governor both made their campaign pitches to Democrats from around the state at an Austin event on Saturday.
Former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and Houston businessman Andrew White must first beat one another in a May 22 primary before facing off against incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott and his powerful campaign.
Former Va. Gov. Terry McAuliffe headlined the event, billed as a Blue Wave Summit spanning the weekend, where party officials spend time with local party leaders from across the state to outline priorities and organize a statewide campaign effort.
U.S. Senate hopeful and current El Paso congressman Beto O’Rourke also spoke, along with other nominees for statewide offices like Mike Collier for lieutenant governor, Justin Nelson for attorney general, Kim Olson for agriculture commissioner, and Joi Chevalier for comptroller.
White and Valdez both addressed border security, an issue on many Texans’ minds with the deployment of National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border.
White argued border security responsibilities lie with the federal government, and that state leaders ought to prioritize education and healthcare.
“Those two issues make up 66% of the state budget, and we are focusing on the border,” White said. “We need to focus on education and healthcare, criminal justice and guns, state issues.”
Meanwhile Valdez said local law enforcement should handle border issues with the financial support of the state and the feds, but that work should not mean diverting other resources.
“There is enough security there,” Valdez said. “Of course we want to be safe, of course if you go down there want to make sure that there are no terrorists come across, but putting all this money in it is not the solution. We need to think smarter and work harder on making it happen.”
Abbott visited Weslaco for a briefing on the state’s border efforts on Thursday.
“The security of our southern border is a top priority, and Texas has stepped up to answer the call,” Abbott said Thursday. “The addition of National Guard troops to aid Customs and Border Patrol will serve to strengthen border security, and their presence will make a meaningful difference. I thank the men and women of the Texas National Guard, as well as our federal partners at Customs and Border Patrol, for their service, and I applaud the Administration for their commitment to keeping our states and nation safe, and our border secure. “
Abbott said troops would provide support and surveillance assistance for Customs and Border Patrol.
The governor’s office said 762 Texas National Guard troops were deployed along the border, and additional troops would add to the effort until the total number of troops reached 1,400.
Meanwhile, Abbott spoke at a Travis County Republican Party fundraiser dinner on Friday night, highlighting Democratic momentum, as well as the country’s involvement in Syria.