November 23, 2013
By Terrence Stutz
SAN ANTONIO — Democratic state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio formally launched her campaign for lieutenant governor Saturday, saying it’s time to retire Republican leaders who “wage war” against women and repeatedly turn their back on middle class families.
“I’m running to be the lieutenant governor who doesn’t forget about the rest of Texas. The ones out-of-touch Republican candidates have forgotten as they continue to pat their most extreme voters on the head,” Van de Putte said in announcing her candidacy before more than 700 supporters Saturday.
“For a long time, the politicians in charge around here haven’t done much to make Texas a place worthy of our pride in it. Texas families have carried the slack on their own,” she said.
“For years, the governor’s been too busy trying to be president and the lieutenant governor’s been too busy trying to get to the U.S. Senate. Nobody’s been minding the store.”
Her reference was to the failed campaigns of Gov. Rick Perry for president and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst for U.S. Senate last year.
She also took a slap at her potential opponents, Dewhurst and the three other Republicans seeking their party’s nomination for lieutenant governor.
“It gets wackier every day,” she said. “They’re all trying to out-extremist one another. All four of them [are] chasing after the most extreme 5 percent of Texans who control the Republican primary elections. To them, the rest of Texas doesn’t exist. To them, the real-life priorities of too many mainstream Texas families simply don’t exist.”
The first Democrat and first woman to jump into the race for the state’s No. 2 post next year, Van de Putte brings a solid record as a legislator for the past 23 years, including the last 14 years in the Senate.
Texas Democrats see her pairing with gubernatorial hopeful Wendy Davis of Fort Worth to give the party its best shot in years of recapturing the top two leadership posts in the state.
Davis welcomed Van de Putte’s candidacy Saturday, calling her an outstanding choice for the job.
Still, like Davis, Van de Putte faces an uphill battle if she secures her party’s nomination. Democrats have not won a statewide race in Texas since 1994.
Speaking to a boisterous rally of her supporters at San Antonio College on Saturday, Van de Putte acknowledged that it will be a tough race, as many think she can’t win because Texas is now a red state.
But she said she is compelled to seek the office because longtime Republican leaders have turned their backs on education, health care, transportation and other pressing needs of the state.
“Funding for public schools has been cut by billions,” she said. “Class sizes have swelled, and too often, we’re losing our best teachers. Texas is investing less in our schoolchildren than almost any other state. It’s no coincidence that we’re last in the nation in the percentage of adults with a high school diploma.
She also accused Republicans of depriving women of health care options and job protections.
“I’ll fight to ensure that women will never again be treated the way we’ve been treated by our own government lately,” she said.
The last two Democratic nominees for lieutenant governor have been Hispanic women — Linda Chavez-Thompson (2010) and Maria Luisa Alvarado (’06). Both were crushed in the general election by Dewhurst. But Van de Putte is generally considered a more dynamic candidate than her predecessors.