February 20, 2009
Van de Putte profile

Really nice article in the SA Current about San Antonio's Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, the Democratic caucus leader and a rising national star who had a pretty busy year in 2008 and may be headed for bigger things next year.

In January, she delivered the Spanish-language response to George W. Bush's final State of the Union Address. In February, she block-walked on the West Side with Hillary Clinton. In June, she set the stage for Clinton's withdrawal from the presidential sweepstakes by striking a unifying tone at the Texas Democratic Convention. The following week, she joined 11 other Latino leaders at a Washington meeting with Barack Obama to discuss his relationship with the Latino community.

In August, she co-chaired the third night of the national convention, bringing down the curtain on a night when Obama secured the Democratic nomination and Vice-Presidential nominee Joe Biden delivered his acceptance speech. In October, Texas A&M University Press published Latina Legislator: Leticia Van de Putte and the Road to Leadership, an examination by UTSA political-science professor Sharon Navarro of Van de Putte's pioneering role as the second Latina senator in Texas history. In December, San Antonio mayoral hopeful Julian Castro publicly introduced Van de Putte as someone who "might be the next Democratic candidate for governor." That same month, her office had to deny persistent rumors that Barack Obama planned to offer her a position in his administration. And Van de Putte herself has hinted that she might be open to a 2010 run for Kay Bailey Hutchison's soon-to-be-vacant U.S. Senate seat.


In recent years, Texas has been brutal to Democrats in state-wide races, and while Van de Putte points out that such a run would be easier for her now that her kids are grown (her youngest is a 19-year-old college student), she doesn't seem particularly eager to leave the Texas Senate.

"If I can still have that passion in something else, then that's what I'm going to do," she says. "But, really, what drives me is my family and the kids. I've got great freedom. I have a wonderful district that's allowed me to do stuff, and they've voted me in for another four years, and I'm going to use the voice."

"We have several well-qualified candidates [for governor and senator]," [Taking Back texas co-founder DeeJay] Johannessen says. "She's served her constituency well and would be a good candidate."

[Sen. Mario] Gallegos believes that Van de Putte would alter the game in Texas simply by making a bid for higher office.

"She would get crossover voting, not only because she's female, but because of the leadership role she's taken all these years," he says. "She brings a fresh outlook on things and I think that's what people are looking for. There's no doubt in my mind that if she decides to run for the U.S. Senate, or whatever position she decides to run for, that she'll be able to get her share of the votes."

I noted the possibility of a Van de Putte candidacy for Governor last week, and nothing I've heard since then has changed my perception that she'd generate a lot of excitement if she did run. She doesn't start out with a lot of money in her campaign coffers, but reading that piece it's clear she'd have a lot of resources to tap into, including perhaps the President himself. She won re-election last year, so she would not have to give up her Senate seat to make a run for Governor in 2010. Obviously, if either Bill White or John Sharp changed course from the Senate race, that would likely change her calculus. But as things stand now, perhaps the stars are lining up for Sen. Van de Putte to take a crack at it next year. Count me as one who'd be delighted to see this. If you count yourself as well, you can join the Draft Leticia Van de Putte for Governor Facebook group, which has 150 members at the time I published this, and make your preference known. EoW and BOR have more.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 20, 2009 to Election 2010

I like Sen. Van de Putte, who is a fine public servant who would be a good statewide elected official.

I don't, however, see why people assume she would be a strong statewide candidate for office. Does she have any demonstrated ability to raise the kind of funds it takes to mount a serious statewide campaign?

I know people like to downplay the importance of money in these races, but the hard truth is that unless you have sufficient funds to compete -- minimally $12 to $15 million -- statewide, you ain't gonna get there. Just ask Barbara Radnofsky, Chris Bell and Rick Noriega.

Second, while Sen. Van de Putte's Latina background could prove an advantage given Texas' dynamic population change, she doesn't have a recognizably Hispanic name, meaning she'd have to spend a lot of money letting folks in the Latino community (and everywhere else) know who she is.

Again, I have no doubt she would be a fine statewide elected official, but somebody has to convince me she can get there.

Posted by: houtopia on February 20, 2009 9:08 AM
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