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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

Van de Putte touts her centrism and pro-business record proudly—facets of her political career that could have a hand in attracting moderate Republicans, fed up with the divisiveness and extremism of their party, to her campaign and making the Democrat a viable threat to opponents.

“I’m a pretty centrist, pro-business Democrat. I want good jobs, I want to create opportunities for small businesses, for veterans, for teachers … and I think that makes me dangerous to the Republicans,” she said.

Her allies agree. They contend moderates are quietly switching over from the GOP side to vote Van De Putte.

“She’s told me she’s had individual conversations with Republican women who have indicated they’re looking to support her,” said Garcia. “There’s a growing dissatisfaction among them due to the tone and priorities of the Republican Party.”

Polls buttress the anecdotal. While 50 percent of suburban women identified themselves as Republicans in an October 2010 University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll, two years later that number dwindled to 43 percent. By June 2013, the figure dropped again to 38 percent. Within the same time frame, Democratic self-identification increased by nine points.

Similarly, Hinojosa alluded to frustration among Republican business owners: “I don’t want to name names, but we have seen that particularly in Sen. Van de Putte’s campaign and particularly from the business community, [they] are very, very concerned about the direction the Republican Party has turned,” he said.

Detractors are bound to counter, “of course her supporters point to party switchers without naming names”—the Republican business owner who votes for Van de Putte sounds like a political Chupacabra and probably is. The critique isn’t unreasonable. But not so fast, naysayers.

Enter Louis Barrios.

Owner of three San Antonio eateries, including the relatively new Viola’s Ventanas, Barrios, a “pro-enterprise Republican” has fundraised for U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, Gov. Rick Perry and currently serves on Attorney General Greg Abbott’s fundraising team for his gubernatorial bid. Barrios calls U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz a, “bright, exceptional force within the Republican Party” and he’s historically voted for the GOP ticket.

But come November, Barrios will cast his ballot for Van de Putte. And not only that, he’s going to ensure her war chest is replete by holding a fundraiser this week at his restaurant with co-chairs Mayor Julian Castro and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff.

“Poisonous and extremist rhetoric” from the GOP lite guv race has driven Barrios to cross his party’s line. Calling immigration from Mexico an “illegal invasion” (as Patrick has), the lack of investment in education and the consistent dehumanizing of Latinos, compelled the business owner to detach.

“Not in my life have I heard the rhetoric that I’ve heard come out of Dan Patrick,” he said. “I don’t see him as a uniter, I don’t see him as a problem solver, I see him as someone who is grasping at the low hanging fruit, shaking the tree of the far-right Republican base.”

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