Texas Democratic candidates for governor debate in Austin

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Voters will soon decide which Democrat will take on Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in November. But first, two finalists will debate.

One of them is former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez. She was also a captain in the U.S. Army and a federal agent with the Department of Homeland Security.

The other is Andrew White, a Houston entrepreneur and businessman. His father is former Texas Gov. Mark White.

They touched on a number of topics including education, affordable housing and taxes. But Valdez found herself in the hot seat when it came to the state's controversial sanctuary cities bill.

The debate was something White has been pushing for months in hopes of chipping away at Valdez's lead in the polls.

There were no real fireworks. But there were a few times over the hour-long debate that both candidates found themselves playing defense.

The debate took place in Austin and was put on by a coalition of democratic groups in Texas. Off the top, the two gubernatorial candidates were asked about their stance on immigration and border control.

White says he believes immigration should be handled in a humanitarian manner and not with military action. He brought up Valdez's controversial decision to work with federal officials while she was Dallas County sheriff, which she denies.

“We saw leadership in Texas from sheriffs in the counties. Sheriff in this county right here in Travis County. Sheriff Hernandez on this very issue led with, I believe, a very strong approach to the issue at hand,” White said. “She did not work with ICE the way Sheriff Valdez worked with ICE.

“No matter how many times you say it, it doesn’t make it true,” Valdez responded. “I did not work with ICE. I did what I had to do and that was an imperfect choice. What I did do was make sure all the detention holds were assessed. What I did do was make sure that the people who were brought in received humane services.”

Another hot-button issue brought up during the debate was abortion. White was asked by the moderator if his personal beliefs about abortion would deter him as governor from allowing a woman the right to choose. He said no. Valdez pressed him.

On the issue of taxes, both candidates said they would not consider implementing a state income tax. White laid out a plan that he says would help raise $9 billion in revenue.

It’s too soon to tell if the debate did anything to help or hurt either candidate.

Early voting for the run-off begins on Monday.

The runoff election is set for Tuesday, May 22. Early voting begins on Monday.