Ending weeks of speculation, state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte said Wednesday she is running for mayor of San Antonio.
Just two weeks after a crushing defeat in the lieutenant governor ‘s race, Van de Putte — who is credited with running a spirited statewide campaign — is expected to electrify the municipal election.
For months, there had been growing speculation that she would enter the fray, and more recently, she had said she was “praying for guidance” about whether to tackle a mayoral race.
Van de Putte, a third-generation San Antonian and West Side Democrat, told the San Antonio Express-News on Wednesday that since entering elected office in 1990, she has fought for the people of San Antonio.
“I think any leader has to have a basis of a character and of that makeup that makes them strong — and not strong physically and maybe not strong emotionally, but strong in the sense of commitment — and for me, that strength comes from a faith and family,” she said in an interview at the newspaper. “And so the decision that our family has made and that I want is to be the next mayor of San Antonio.”
State Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, rolled out his campaign in the wake of then-Mayor Julián Castro’s announcement this summer that he’d be leaving to join President Barack Obama’s Cabinet as secretary of Housing and Urban development.
Van de Putte’s entry into the May 9 mayoral race certainly kills Villarreal’s chances of sailing easily into the office.
Van de Putte said she intends to send Gov. Rick Perry a letter Thursday asking him to call a special election for her seat, which she will hold until a successor is elected.
Her decision shakes up the Democratic landscape, setting off a scramble for the District 26 Texas Senate seat she’s held since 1999 and possibly affecting other offices that might be vacated.
Two Democrats in the Texas House have expressed interest in the Senate seat — state Reps. Trey Martinez Fischer and José Menéndez, and other candidacies are likely in the sprawling district.
Martinez Fischer, a longtime ally of Van de Putte, has represented District 116 since 2001. The outspoken chairman of the Mexican America Legislative Caucus would be a leading contender to replace Van de Putte but hasn’t formally declared his intentions.
Here’s the Trib story, which also mentions Van de Putte’s resignation strategy. I don’t think the two-thirds is likely to be much of a factor, but having a full contingent of Democrats is needed as a bulwark against any attempts to put noxious constitutional amendments on next year’s ballot. Rick Perry still hasn’t called a special election to fill Villarreal’s seat, though he broke records calling one for Glenn Hegar. My best guess is that there won’t be one for SD26 until next November, which may trigger the need for at least one more depending on who wins the election to succeed Van de Putte.
I will admit to being surprised by this. I have no insider knowledge, I just figured Sen. Van de Putte wouldn’t want to jump from one bruising campaign to another so quickly, though at least this one won’t have her on the road all the time. I can understand why she might be ready to leave the Senate, which I expect will be a whole lot of no fun for her this spring. Maybe once you’ve accepted the possibility of one big change, the possibility of another is easier to handle. I wish her well, as I also wish Mike Villarreal well; both would make fine Mayors. For at least the next two to four years, the best prospect for progress in this state is at the local level, where Mayors can push for a lot of things that our state government won’t. I hope both Leticia Van de Putte and Mike Villarreal (and anyone else who joins them in that race) embrace that potential and run a spirited, issues-oriented, forward-looking campaign, and may the best candidate win.
One more thing: It will be a sad day when Sen. Van de Putte leaves the Senate, but change is always inevitable and new blood is a good and necessary thing. It’s a great opportunity for some other talented politicians as well, and Democrats can emerge from all these changes just fine. There’s no point in looking back. What comes next is what matters.