Andrew White really wants to debate his Democratic opponent, so why isn’t it happening?

Chad Lyle

The runoff election deciding which Democrat will run against incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott is less than a month away, and candidate Andrew White is not pleased with his opponent’s reluctance to debate him.  

White, a Houston entrepreneur, advanced along with former Dallas Sheriff Lupe Valdez after competing in a nine-person race in the March 6 primary. White said his team immediately began trying to set up a debate with Valdez in anticipation for the runoff, which will take place May 22.

“Since the day after the primary election, we’ve been calling for debates,” White said. “We’ve received offers to host debates from television stations, newspapers, Democratic clubs … we’ve accepted every single one of them without question, and we still don’t have a debate set.” 

White said he believes the Valdez campaign is stalling these attempts because they perceive Valdez to be the front-runner and do not want to jeopardize that status.  

“They just aren’t interested in a debate,” White said. “I believe that they’re just trying to run the clock out. I mean to a certain extent you can’t just put together a debate tomorrow. If they can make it through the next week or two, then they’ve made it.” 

However, the Valdez campaign said it is not intentionally avoiding a debate. 

“As Lupe Valdez has repeatedly said, she is open and willing to have a debate, but that she is focused on talking to voters and hearing the concerns of everyday Texans,” campaign spokesman Juan Bautista Dominguez said in an email. “We are actively exploring several proposals and speaking with various groups to try to coordinate the timing and place that will work.”

Prominent Democrats are encouraging a Valdez-White debate. Senate-hopeful Beto O’Rourke, an El Paso congressman, and attorney general candidate Justin Nelson both support the idea, according to the Austin American-Statesman. Marco Guajardo, the University Democrats communications director, also said he is in favor of it.

“I don’t see why we would not be supportive of a debate,” said Guajardo, a marketing sophomore. “I think it’s a good idea to hear the perspectives and the platforms of both candidates, and I think everyone in UDems would agree with me on that.”  

White said debating would benefit both candidates.

“A debate brings attention to our race, and no matter who wins, we need attention to our race,” White said. “We have television stations and newspapers willing to do that for us. We have to take advantage of that.”