The Democratic runoff candidates for governor sparred Friday evening over abortion and immigration in their first and likely only debate before the May 22 election.
Meeting at a church in Austin, Andrew White and Lupe Valdez sounded out their differences — sometimes with rancor — over the two issues that have provided the most tension in the race so far, including White’s personal opposition to abortion. He has said, however, that he respects a woman’s right to choose and would veto any legislation that infringes on that right as governor.
That was not good enough for Valdez, who said at the hourlong debate that White’s position implies he believes woman who decide to have abortions do not respect life.
“Andrew, you owe an apology to these women,” Valdez said.
White, after taking a dig at the “theatrical” nature of her answer, held firm that his personal beliefs on the issue would not influence how he would govern.
“My personal opinions are my personal opinions, and as governor, I would trust women to make their own health care decisions,” White said.
The two also clashed over immigration, namely Valdez’s record interactions with federal authorities in Dallas County. After Valdez insisted she is the “only one that’s running for governor that has fought … against anti-immigration laws for years,” White noted she did not go as far in resisting cooperation with ICE as Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez did.
“No matter how many times you say it, it isn’t true,” Valdez responded. “I did not work with ICE. I did what I had to do, and that was an imperfect choice.”
White also played some defense on border issues, fielding a moderator question about a company he owns that uses heartbeat-detection technology to find people hiding in vehicles. While the company has been criticized for profiting off illegal immigration, White insisted the technology saves lives and it is a better approach to border security than what Republicans have been proposing. Still, he confirmed he is “actively engaged” in the process of divesting from the company, which has drawn fire in the race in recent weeks.