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By Julianne Pepitone

As Lupe Valdez puts it, she’s facing “an uphill battle.” She’s a Democrat running against a Republican incumbent governor in the red state of Texas. And an NBC News/Marist poll put Valdez 19 percentage points behind Gov. Greg Abbott last month.

But Valdez has faced challenges before. She’s an Army veteran. She grew up in the poorest neighborhood of San Antonio. She served as Dallas County Sheriff for 13 years.

And if she’s elected in November, Valdez would be not only Texas’ first Latina governor since 2006 – but also the country’s first-ever out lesbian governor.

“As a Latina I’ve known nothing but uphill battles, so what’s to stop us now? We’re getting damn good at it,” Valdez told Know Your Value in a conversation during Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15 – Oct. 15.

The real ‘Texas brand’ isn’t necessarily red

“I think the real Texas brand has yet to be seen. There’s a ton of us Latinos here [Note: The U.S. Census estimates more than 39 percent of Texas’ population is Latino], and [Gov. Abbott] said he would help us. Yet the majority of the high poverty school districts are almost all Latino. That lack of education, of resources, is hurting our future.

I’m the child of migrant workers, and I was given an opportunity to go to the other side of town to the more elite high school and get educated. A lot of Latinos have not had that opportunity.

We need everyone to have a fighting chance, and that’s why I’m a Democrat. It’s not a handout, it’s saying, ‘God, just put me in reach.’ Don’t put me where it’s impossible.

As a Latina, I am more conscious of how the way you do things can help or hurt people. Many Latinos are having to work two jobs, having to decide whether to go to the doctor or pay your rent. That’s what I will focus on as governor.”

What sparked the wave of Latina politicians

“[President] Trump is giving people permission to be cruel and hateful. We’re tired of what’s been put on us and we say, Ya basta. Enough. Let’s do something better for our people.

When you think about it, the Latina in the household is the one who holds the family together. She is the nurturer, the one who pushes the family forward. We’ll do the same for our state and country … Women are fighting because they have had enough.”

A ‘balance’ is coming

“I think a balance is about to happen. We’ve had a lot of Trump, and … my vision for Texas is a lot brighter... It will take all of us working together on education, health care, infrastructure: the things that matter. We are going to be the balance to stop this rolling stone that keeps coming from D.C. to try to crush us."

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