Abbott, Valdez to finally face off in Sept. 28 debate

Sami Sparber

After weeks of back-and-forth, Lupe Valdez, the Democratic nominee for governor, agreed Thursday to debate Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on Sept. 28 in Austin.

Although Abbott RSVP’d to the Austin debate in July, Valdez initially took issue with the debate’s timing – a Friday night during high school football season.

The timing of the debate has not changed, but per Valdez’s request, Telemundo, a Spanish-language media partner, will broadcast the debate live and provide a moderator and instantaneous Spanish translation for viewers.

“I’m glad to announce that after weeks of negotiations, we have succeeded in making our debate with Trump’s favorite puppet governor more inclusive, representative, and accessible to Texans across the state,” Valdez said in a statement.

While Valdez touted the partnership with Telemundo as a victory, Abbott’s campaign remained adamant it had not made any concessions regarding the debate.

“In a desperate attempt to show signs of life, our opponent’s campaign has finally agreed to debate after months of snubbing voters,” Abbott spokesman John Wittman said in a statement to The Texas Tribune.

While debates generally drum up a lot of media attention, they tend to only have a short-term impact on the race, said Joshua Blank, manager of polling and research at UT’s Texas Politics Project, in an email.

“It’s unlikely that the debate is going to fundamentally alter the trajectory of the race, but in the immediate aftermath, it may help (Valdez) … increase the share of the public who knows who she is,” Blank said.

Blank said both candidates will likely take different approaches to their talking points during the debate.

“I think we can expect to see Gov. Abbott touting his record while in office, and implicitly asking voters why they would want a change,” Blank said. “For Valdez, it will be about highlighting … education, property taxes, and the state’s orientation towards immigrants, legal and illegal.”    

Marco Guajardo, vice president of University Democrats, said he hopes the debate highlights the differences between the two candidates.

“It’s high time for Texans to know how much Abbott has deeply hurt this state with his radical agenda,” marketing junior Guajardo said. “We’ve got a great candidate in Lupe Valdez.”

Saurabh Sharma, chairman of UT’s chapter of Young Conservatives of Texas, said he’s confident Abbott’s experience will speak for itself.

“Abbott is well-equipped to defend his ideas and ensure Texas’ trajectory continues to be positive,” biochemistry senior Sharma said.