Leticia Van de Putte’s Lite Guv Bid Assures One Outcome: She will be heard
Published: March 26, 2014
“I remember I sweated and worked and wouldn’t leave the negotiating room for 36 hours because if I left they’d cut it out [of the budget],” said Van de Putte of UTHSC. “Those things don’t just happen; to get major investments done you need someone to be there to champion it.”
Van de Putte is also behind legislation to halt human trafficking, inject millions into public education funding, improve women’s health funding and increase competition within the telecommunications industry. But she is perhaps most noted for her role in looking out for military families and veterans. As Chair of the Veteran Affairs & Military Committee, Van de Putte championed legislation to improve the quality of life for service members and their families, such as providing in-state tuition for non-Texas veterans, a program to facilitate school transitions for children of military parents when transferred to new stations and allowing tuition payment exemptions for veterans to apply to their children.
Prior to last summer’s filibuster, Van de Putte’s most head-turning maneuver was leading the “Texas 11” in 2003—the group of Texas Senate Democrats that decamped to New Mexico for 46 days in order to obstruct the passage of yet another controversial state redistricting plan that would have heavily favored Republicans.
These efforts have helped her become a steady rock for Texas Dems—Van de Putte served as co-chair of the 2008 Democratic National Convention, acted as a former president of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), is the recipient of the League of United Latin American Citizens’ “Legislative Recognition Award” and in 2013, Van de Putte was named one of Texas Monthly’s Ten Best Legislators.
While her legislative career began as a whim, her next political chapter would be anything but folly.
Run, Leticia, Run!
On a Saturday in August, Grace Garcia caught up with her close friend of more than four decades over lunch at El Mirador Mexican Restaurant on South St. Mary’s.
Companions since their days at Jefferson High School, the women chatted for nearly two hours before Garcia, executive director of Annie’s List, threw on her professional hat and asked the seemingly inevitable, “Will you consider running for lieutenant governor?”
Across the table sat Van de Putte, still reeling from the deaths that overshadowed an otherwise good year, hesitant toward the proposal but also intrigued.
“It was a difficult decision for her to make because of the losses she had this year,” said Garcia over the phone from her Austin office. “She was truly undecided. I could see in her that she wanted to do it on some level, but she really wanted her family to be OK first.”
After a long stint at the State Department and the White House where she worked for President Bill Clinton and later Hillary Clinton, Garcia returned to her home state to head Annie’s List with the mission of recruiting strong female Democrats to office. Garcia said she had to remove herself and “honestly assess” her old friend’s chances at holding one of the most powerful statewide positions, personal biases aside.
> Email Mary Tuma