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Leticia Van de Putte’s Lite Guv Bid Assures One Outcome: She will be heard

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

Photo: Photo by Mary Tuma, License: N/A

Photo by Mary Tuma

State sen. Leticia Van de Putte announced her bid for Texas lieutenant governor at San Antonio College in November

“Texas is still a very red state. The average Republican candidate starts off with a 10-12 point advantage against their Democratic rival. So, the biggest barrier for Van de Putte will be closing that gap,” said Mark Jones, professor and chair of the Department of Political Science at Rice University,

“It’s extremely unlikely that she’ll be elected the next lieutenant governor of Texas,” he admits, “but it’s quite possible that she’ll outperform her fellow Democratic candidates.”

Munisteri also cast doubt on the state senator’s ability to substantially fundraise.

“To run competitively in this state to beat a Republican, you have to be able to spend tens of millions of dollars, and I think Wendy Davis is sucking all the financial oxygen out of the room for the Dems,” he said. “They’re going to focus so much time, attention and money to get her $40-$50 million, and I think it’s really going to … hurt Van de Putte.” Jones backed up this assessment, “in some ways, she’s competing with Davis for the same donors.”

Another hurdle: While she’s known in SA, Van de Putte will have to build the resources to be able to make a name for herself outside the city to garner statewide votes.

With an entrenched Republican culture working against her and less than eight months to boost her name ID, onlookers must honestly wonder, what makes the race winnable? Perhaps the answer lies not in dissecting her race but rather, that of her opponents.

The initial four white, conservative men—Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, Agricultural Commissioner Todd Staples, state Sen. Dan Patrick and incumbent David Dewhurst—vying for the GOP lieutenant governor slot have been blasted for shamelessly pandering to the Tea Party fringe. All men hold staunchly anti-immigrant views. All men oppose abortion, even in cases of rape or incest. All men promote the idea of teaching Creationism in public schools. Dewhurst and Patrick (early in the race) endorsed repealing the 17th Amendment, stripping voters of the power to elect U.S. senators. All men bash Obama in ads, despite not running federal campaigns.

In short, their respective primary campaigns devolved into a race to out-extreme the other and, for some, distracted from the critical, though less sexy, issues like water funding, education and transportation.

In a primary race that fulfilled the predictions of a heavy Tea Party influence, Dewhurst trailed ultra-conservative favorite Patrick by 13 percentage points but still managed to swing enough votes to land the two candidates in a May runoff election. Come November, Van de Putte will face off against either one of these men in a duel that turns “stark contrast” into an understatement.

“I think what sets me apart is that I am not out there talking about getting rid of the 17th amendment, or saying the most pressing thing is to repeal the DREAM Act,” said Van de Putte. “While they are all really trying to get the five percent of the Texas electorate that controls the Republican primary, I’m focusing on basic things like building a strong education system, good jobs and fixing our roads.”

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