Lupe Valdez (right) was sworn as Dallas County Sheriff on January 1st, 2005. Valdez, a Democrat, was long seen as an underdog in the race not only because it had been held by Republicans for decades but also because she became the first Latino person to hold the job as well as the first openly gay person as well (and the only female sheriff in the state).
Today, as she runs for re-election, some say that an increasing Democratic base in Dallas and the fact that the vote takes place on November 4th - the same date that voters elect the next president of the United States with Barack Obama on the ballot - will make it difficult for Republicans to regain the Dallas sheriff's office.
But, despite a 100% rating from the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, her performance has not drawn widespread support from certain circles in Dallas.
The Dallas Morning News reported in late August that as many as fourteen police associations - including one representing her own deputies and another representing local Latino policemen - had endorsed her opponent. None had endorsed Valdez.
Most of the opposition stems from allegations that Valdez has been unusually reluctant to meet up with police unions and address some issues (the Valdez camp says that it has been aggressive in fighting the corruption and cronyism that overran past sheriff administrations and that they are not surprised by the fact that the good ol' boy's network has been siding with her opponent).
It also stems from her offices failure, during her first term, to significantly improve living situations at the Dallas County Jail which had failed state and federal inspections before and after her election (the Valdez office claims that they inherited the problem and have made strides even if there are still failing grades).
As of late, though, attacks on Valdez have turned nasty and, yes, homophobic and sexist. An anonymous blog (ah! Is there any other hatchet job kind of blog than an anonymous one?) called Off with Her Badge has a cute 'Stoopid Loopy' icon on their homepage and, under a link titled 'Lupe's House of Horrors' which criticizes her record on jails, there is also an image that recalls the horrors of Abu Ghraib (these seem to be criticisms from the left but I bet ya they're just masking a right-wing anonymous attack on Valdez).
Most recently a 'controversy' has erupted over a questionnaire on gay issues that was distributed to department officers.
When I first heard about the questionnaire from the The Dallas Morning News (and when I took a look at it) it seemed pretty clear to me that these were standard questions on forms given out during tolerance trainings on LGBT issues requested not only by police departments around the United States but also other institutions.
Online critics called it a litmus test for employment but a WFAA report and video clearly indicates that it's part of a diversity training at the police department and that officers are not required to participate in the training or to sign their names if they do respond to the questionaire.
In a written statement released to press, Sheriff Valdez said: "It is a shame that a diversity program that is geared toward ensuring equality for all employees in an agency as large as the Sheriff's Department is being used to stir up controversy; Our goal is to make sure that employees of every race, color, and sex are treated fairly and have the same rights as others."
As for what some call a 'left-leaning' Latino Peace Officers Association (who failed to endorse Valdez when she first ran for the sheriff's office in 2004 and are doing so again), the 'controversy' certainly seems to have exposed the true reason they haven't backed Valdez: Homophobia.
According to the Dallas Morning News, Deputy Mike Ramirez, the Association's vice president, never took the test but 'took offense after reading it' and claimed that - even if it wasn't mandatory - some officers had complained that they felt pressure to attend the training and complete the questionnaire.
"They felt the department was trying to promote the gay lifestyle," he said.
Ah, yes, the good ol' lifestyle.
I haven't followed Valdez' performance as sheriff so I can't voucher for her performance during her first term but this all certainly smells of crapola. Elect a sheriff on his or her merits, not on your bias and outright discrimination.
UPDATE: As I thought, the questionnaire is not a litmus test given to officers in the sheriff's department but rather from a standard questionnaire distributed to officers who participate at diversity trainings. Here is an explanation posted at a Dallas Voice blog:
"The questionnaire is the same one that Resource Center of Dallas has used for its public safety training classes, including the Dallas Police Department, since the 1990s. It was administered anonymously and participants were explicitly told they were not to write their names on it. Furthermore, the questions were mixed up so that respondents could not be tied to specific questionnaires. Similar questionnaires have also been used in our monthly diversity training classes here at the Resource Center of Dallas and in educational, public safety and corporate settings. The questionnaire is used by Resource Center of Dallas to determine attitudes toward the GLBTA community and generate discussion in the classes. The completed questionnaires are not shared with anybody outside RCD and are destroyed after each class. The questionnaires are the sole property of Resource Center Of Dallas and were not developed by the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department. We are disappointed that our efforts at diversity and inclusiveness are being used in a political manner in advance of the Dallas Pride weekend, when the North Texas GLBTA community comes together to celebrate and share. It shows that our work is needed" - Cece Cox, associate executive director of Resource Center of Dallas- Previously:Latina lesbian sheriff criticized (September 15, 2006)