Posted: Sept. 4, 2012
By Celia Cohen
Sher Valenzuela went to give at speech on "We Built It" night at the Tampa convention as a vaguely known Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, but it is not the way she came back.
She returned to Delaware in the crude shorthand of politics as the bootstrap conservative who took government money for the family-run business and the pro-life candidate who had an abortion.
The flurry was predictable about Valenzuela and First State Manufacturing, the upholstery business in Milford with its origins in a mail-order course completed by Eli Valenzuela, her husband, because the government contracts are public record. Part of it, along with a list of various commercial customers, is even on the company's Web site.
Someone just had to look and then want to make something of it. This is politics. It was as inevitable as the outing of the publicly filed plans for Mitt Romney's car elevator.
For something as private as an abortion, however, Sher Valenzuela had to tell on herself.
She briefly mentioned it during a five-minute news interview, posted last Tuesday, Aug. 28, on the Delmarva Public Radio Web site, in the context of questions about the volatile comments on abortion and "legitimate rape" from Todd Akin, the Republican congressman from Missouri.
"I understand that issue from a very personal level, of having, having had an abortion," she said.
Back home in Delaware, where Valenzuela is in the midst of a campaign against Matt Denn, the Democratic lieutenant governor, she spoke with Delaware Grapevine about the radio interview and the abortion and said she had disclosed it because she was simply being candid.
"I am who I am. I'm not a sound-bite politician," she said.
Valenzuela, who is 58, had the abortion in her 20s when she was living in Colorado. She grew up in Cleveland, which she left -- or perhaps more accurately, fled -- as soon as she could.
"It was a gritty city. I knew there had to be more to life," she said.
Valenzuela got married while in Cleveland and moved to Colorado with her husband. They divorced, and she married again. The couple had a son in 1980, and nine months later she was pregnant again. Her husband gave her a choice, either end the pregnancy or the marriage ends.
"I felt very alone. I really don't hold it against the guy. We were struggling. We didn't have well-paying jobs. I didn't have enough information to move forward," she said.
Valenzuela had the abortion, although she said she would not make the same choice today.
That second marriage eventually ended in divorce, too. She had taken some business administration courses and was working for IBM and welcomed a transfer to Texas. Although she had no church upbringing, she reluctantly let a colleague at IBM talk her into attending a nondenominational Christian church, which was meeting in a factory, and was drawn in.
She met Eli Valenzuela at a Bible study in Texas, and they married in 1989. They made their way east to Delaware to be closer to Sher Valenzuela's mother, living in New Jersey. They had a child and adopted another and started the upholstery company 15 years ago.
"I am pro-life. For 30 years, this is what I am. I met my husband because of his involvement in the pro-life movement. An abortion is an assault on a woman's body, and we've put it in a casual box called 'choice.' It's pro-life or pro-abortion," Valenzuela said.
A week ago, before Valenzuela gave her speech in Tampa, people hardly knew anything about her. They sure do now.