Lupe Valdez, the Democratic nominee for governor of Texas and an advocate for increased gun control, is drawing fire after police reported her service pistol went missing.
Valdez, the first openly gay individual to be nominated by a major party for the Texas governorship, has lost or misplaced a Beretta 9mm pistol loaned to her in her previous capacity as sheriff of Dallas County, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
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The pistol, which is valued at $649, was issued to serve as Valdez's on-duty weapon in October 2011 after her personal firearm "sustained a malfunction." The weapon may have been misplaced or stolen at some point in December 2017, when Valdez resigned as sheriff to announce her candidacy for governor and was transitioning between public office and the campaign trail.
The Dallas County Sheriff's Office generated a police report on July 13 for the missing weapon out of fear it may have fallen into the wrong hands and has been used to commit a crime. The sheriff's department has not confirmed if Valdez's pistol was lost or stolen, stating it was only "considered missing" at this point in time.
Juan Bautista Dominguez, a spokesman for the Valdez campaign, told The Dallas Morning News the candidate was cooperating with the sheriff's office to "locate the firearm." Dominguez would not elaborate if Valdez had returned the weapon prior to departing elective office, according to the Morning News.
"As mentioned in the [police] report, it is possible that this weapon could have been stolen or misplaced during Sheriff Valdez's moving transition and she is working with the Dallas County Sheriff Department to locate the firearm," Dominguez said.
The misplaced weapon is particularly troublesome for Valdez, especially since she has staked her campaign on "common sense" gun control measures.
Valdez has advocated for universal background checks on gun purchases, is supportive of limiting high capacity magazines, and has argued for stripping firearms from individuals involved in violent criminal conduct. She has also opposed Republican-led initiatives to expand concealed carry efforts to university buildings and dormitories throughout Texas.
The candidate's stance on the Second Amendment has garnered praise from gun control advocates, including former Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (Ariz.). In May, Giffords and her "gun safety organization" endorsed Valdez's candidacy, claiming the former sheriff had led the charge in preventing guns from "ending up in the wrong hands" during her tenure in office.
"Law enforcement and first responders like Sheriff Valdez know how a firearm ending up in the wrong hands can lead to tragedy," Giffords said at the time. "Sheriff Valdez also knows that both law enforcement and elected officials play a pivotal role in keeping our communities safe from gun violence."
Furthermore, the missing weapon does not bode well for Valdez's effort to present herself as a credible candidate for statewide office in the heavily conservative state.
The Democrat, who has struggled to energize traditional portions of the Democratic Party's base, is facing off against first-term Republican Gov. Greg Abbott this November. Abbott, who previously served as the attorney general of Texas for three terms before ascending to the governorship in 2014, has wide name recognition and is one of the nation's 10 most popular chief executives.
Apart from trailing the incumbent in name recognition, Valdez has also fallen far behind in fundraising. Valdez's campaign reported for the first quarter of 2018 that the candidate raised only $291,000 and had $258,00 cash on hand, paling Abbott, who has amassed a $41-million war chest, according to the Texas Tribune.
On Wednesday, the Abbott campaign released a video on social media lambasting Valdez for being unable to "keep track of her own gun."
If Lupe Valdez can't keep track of her own gun, she can't be trusted running the state of Texas. pic.twitter.com/XxyEEL0t6n
— Texans for Abbott (@AbbottCampaign) August 15, 2018