An openly gay Hispanic woman was elected sheriff of Dallas County on Tuesday, becoming the county’s first ever elected female sheriff and the first Democrat to win the post in over 25 years.

Lupe Valdez served as a federal agent for the U.S. Customs Service for 28 years, working on fraud, organized crime and drug cases. She defeated her opponent, Republican Danny Chandler, with about 51 percent of the vote. Chandler is a sheriff’s department veteran who ousted incumbent Jim Bowles in the Republican primary.

In the final days of the campaign, Chandler accused Valdez of being dead set on promoting a gay agenda. She answered that she had never tried to cover up her sexual orientation and added that such personal matters had nothing to do with law enforcement, according to press reports.

Valdez said her win was a reminder that diversity can still be embraced, even in a state that many think of as overwhelmingly conservative, both socially and politically.

“Look at this room,” she said at her victory rally. “All ethnic groups, all walks of life, rich or poor, gay or straight, whatever, we are an international town and this is what I bring to this.”

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Two leading female journalists have been arrested in Iran over the past two weeks as part of the hard-line conservative government’s efforts to suppress pro-democracy journalists and Web sites.

Mahboubeh Abbas-Gholizadeh, the editor of the Farzaneh Journal and an outspoken women’s rights activist, was arrested on Nov. 1, according to press reports. Fereshteh Ghazi, who writes about women’s rights issues in a daily newspaper, was also arrested last week.

Iran’s newly elected parliament has been steadily working to chip away at women’s rights and hinder efforts to promote gender equality and women’s inheritance rights, according to human rights groups.

In addition to the recent arrests, Iranian journalist Shadi Sadr has also come under fire for allegedly undermining Islamic moral values through her writings about legal and social practices that she believes are unfair to women. Sadr is editor in chief of Women in Iran, a Tehran-based Web site and was awarded the Ida B. Wells Award for Bravery in Journalism by Women’s eNews in 2004.

— Robin Hindery.