Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez had a strong showing in Tuesday's Democratic primary for governor and will be the favorite in a May runoff after finishing first.
The contest, with nine candidates total, inevitably seemed destined for a second round. Valdez will face Houston businessman Andrew White. He's the son of former governor Mark, who served one term in the 1980s.
Valdez got 43 percent of the Democratic vote compared to White's 27 percent.
Valdez, while speaking to supporters Tuesday night, said Texans are excited and energized about change.
“Opportunity in Texas should be as big as the Texas sky. I've been blessed to live a life of service and hard work and reap the benefits of a public school education and the opportunity it provides,” Valdez said. “I want to fight to provide that same type of opportunity for the people of Texas no matter where they come from.”
White said the state government, led by Abbott, is not making decisions based on the needs of Texans.
“We beat the expectations tonight and we're going to do it again in May, and we're going to do it again in November,” White said.
Valdez spent part of election day campaigning in ruby-red Collin County, one of the biggest GOP strongholds in the state.
"I think this is the way you continue to win -- grassroots," Valdez said before polls closed. "People are invested in you, they get to know you, then they feel better about who you are."
Whoever wins faces a daunting task in the fall. Incumbent Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is the state’s most popular politician and has a whopping $43 million in campaign funds ready to go.
A candidate in the Democratic field hasn’t even come close to raising even $1 million.
Only in the past few weeks has Valdez built something resembling a campaign operation, most notably hiring a strategist who helped elect a Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in Alabama in December.
Valdez is generally considered the favorite of the Texas Democratic establishment, but her seeming unfamiliarity with statewide issues created an opening for White during the past two months.
Valdez has spent much of the past few weeks outside of North Texas trying to improve her name ID with Democratic voters.