Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Lupe Valdez casts early vote

Democratic candidate for governor Lupe Valdez took advantage of early voting and cast her ballot in Dallas Tuesday morning.

The former Dallas County is trying to standout in the crowded Democratic primary. In the past two weeks she's hired a big name Democratic strategist to beef up her campaign, but fundraising and statewide name recognition continue to be an issue.

The former Dallas County Sheriff spent Tuesday morning on her home turf and cast her ballot at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Dallas.

“Every time I stop at a new location and speak to people their energy just flows into me,” Valdez said.

Valdez faces an uphill battle. The Dallas Morning News and some LGBT groups across the state haven't endorsed her, disappointed by her unfamiliarity with state issues and how she might tackle them.

But at least one poll released last week by the Texas Tribune has Valdez in the lead amongst likely Democratic primary voters.

Valdez's closest competitor is Houston businessman Andrew White, who is leading Valdez in the fundraising department. White’s father, Mark, served one term as governor in the mid-1980s.

Earlier this month, Valdez hired Bill Romjue, a strategist who helped now Alabama U.S. Sen. Doug Jones defeat Republican challenger Roy Moore.

In the days ahead, Valdez is making stops in Austin, Houston and Laredo -- trying to build momentum outside her Dallas County comfort zone. Michael Hardy, who voted for Valdez, hopes she can.

“I read some articles recently about fundraising challenges and that has me worried, but other than that, I finally decided it's worth a shot,” Hardy said. “As much as I would love to have a minority, a woman, a lesbian as governor, I really want to not have Greg Abbott as the governor.”

If no candidate gets a majority in the March Democratic primary, the top two finishers will compete in a May runoff.

SMU political science professor Matthew Wilson said Valdez would face a massive challenge against Abbott if she advances out of the primary.

“While she's clearly the underdog, this is a strong Democratic year, so there's at least a punter's chance that you could have a huge Democratic wave that carries the whole ticket into office and she could wake up and find herself governor. Now that's a low probability scenario but not an impossible scenario,” Wilson said.

Early voting continues through March 2. Election Day is March 6.