McALLEN —Two Democratic candidates running for Texas governor made a stop in the Rio Grande Valley on Thursday to try to sway voters in this Democratic stronghold to back them.

Former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and Andrew White, son of former Texas Gov. Mark White, visited South Texas for a Democratic Party fundraiser dubbed Noche Azul. The event, held at Embassy Suites, showcased a who’s who of local politics.

Both candidates acknowledged the importance of the region and spoke about issues that affect the community, including border security and what White called the show-me-your-papers law, otherwise known as SB 4.

Both are running on similar platforms. They want to take the $800 million the state spends on the increased presence of Texas Department of Public Safety troopers in the area and invest it instead in education and health care.

“Those two things, education and health care, make up 70 percent of our state’s budget, and our governor is ignoring it,” White said. “We have no excuse to be spending money on border security when we’re not spending enough on our schools. And so the first thing that I’ll do as governor is take that $800 million and focus it back into our schools.”

“The most they do is give tickets,” Valdez said about troopers. “I’m not too sure they do anything else.”

White said he would overturn SB 4, the law that gives law enforcement the power to enforce immigration law.

“I won’t get pulled over and asked to show my papers because I have pale skin,” he said. “But if you have brown skin, you’re going to get pulled over. That’s how this works. It’s discriminatory and it’s not what Texas is about.”

Both also want to expand Medicaid, a move that Texas forwent under Abbott’s leadership. The expansion was a key component of former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

“All that money that was left on the table because our governor was too proud to accept money … from a government that was run by Obama,” Valdez said. “Pride should never stand in front of people’s health. We need to change that.”

As a result, White said, Texas counties “gets stuck with the bill.”

“It’s a $6 billion check a year that we’d get from the federal government, and we need that. It’s really insane that we’re not taking it,” he said. “That’s another reason why our property taxes keep going up and up and up.”

White criticized Abbott’s proposal to cap the annual property tax revenue growth at 2.5 percent, comparing it to “putting a Band-Aid on a heart attack victim.”

“It’s not going to work. You can’t fix property taxes until you fix education and health care, which are the underlying growing problem,” he said. “The state’s been getting out of funding those two things, which places all of the pressure on the property tax bill.”

Valdez, once a migrant worker, stressed her commitment to reforming education in Texas. Six of her brothers were not educated because schools at the time did not allow migrant children to enroll after the school year started, she said.

“But my mom was smart enough to say ‘Ya basta (stop), these children are going to get educated,’” she said. “We must afford that opportunity to everybody. Everybody must have a fighting chance, not only the people that are lucky enough for somebody to take care of them and help them get through college.”

She went on to criticize Abbott for focusing on special interest groups.

“For too long, we’ve been hearing about the governor taking care of a small group. What about the common people — the everyday people like us?” she asked rhetorically. “We need to also be heard.”

White shared her views.

“Our governor is such an extremist. He’s focused on the bathroom bills. He’s focused on the show-me-your-papers law,” he said. “People are angry. They’re tired of the extremism.”

That anger, they said, is fueling Democrats across the state to vote.

“Here it’s natural, but look at North Texas where it’s mostly Republican,” Valdez said. “The voting numbers for the Democratic side are skyrocketing, while the Republican side stay the same. It’s time. Ya es tiempo.”

White pointed to Harris County, which saw a 200 percent increase in the Democratic turnout during the first day of early voting.

“So this is happening,” he said. “We’re seeing the numbers in real time. It’s very exciting.”

And while they both share similar platforms, they each made a pitch to South Texas voters.

Valdez, the only Latina and woman running for the seat, said both of those attributes gave her an edge.

“We work harder, we do harder and we do more,” she said. “I’m the one you need to vote for.”

nlopez@themonitor.com