A Texas Latina Throws Her Hat in the Ring

by Victoria DeFrancesco Soto on December 3, 2013

It’s finally official. Texas state senator Leticia Van de Putte, otherwise known as LVP, is running for Lieutenant Governor next year. This is a big deal and I’ll get to that in a minute. But first, a little background on the potential first Latina Lt. Governor of Texas.

It was 1990 and LVP was working as a pharmacist, raising six kids, all under the age of 9, and serving as a precinct chair in San Antonio. And as precinct chair it was her job to interview candidates to fill the vacancy to a local state house seat. After interviewing the half a dozen gentlemen running for the position she came away unimpressed and said as much to her husband – who suggested she run. She took him up on his suggestion, ran and won.

After serving a decade in the Texas House of Representatives LVP successfully ran for the state Senate seat she currently holds. Throughout her political career in the state house and senate Van de Putte has become a leading voice on veteran’s affairs, education, and economic development.

But beyond a particular issue, LVP’s brand has been that of making sure she’s at the table asking about the people who aren’t, whether that’s the veteran suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, the newly naturalized citizen from Vietnam who can’t read the ballot, or the Latina who is worried about her access to mammograms. LVP forces her colleagues, the majority of which are white affluent males, to put themselves in someone else’s shoes or at least listen to what she has to say.

This summer as the Texas abortion bill was being filibustered and then voted on LVP raised her hand to speak, or rather speak for those women who were losing reproductive rights. She was informed that the chamber had moved on to a new motion effectively denying her the right to speak. Senator Van de Putte then made a Parliaentary inquiry, “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over the male colleagues in the room?” The senate gallery erupted in cheering deafening the gallery for over 15 minutes. Classic LVP.

Now, back to the big deal about Van de Putte’s candidacy. We usually think of down-ballot races benefiting from the top of the ticket, not the other way around. But in the case of Wendy Davis’ gubernatorial run, the only shot she has of winning is in getting Latino support, and if anyone can get that support it’s LVP as her lieutenant governor.

Senator Van de Putte is a Latina political leader with deep state ties and a national presence. Here in South Texas she has a finely tuned political infrastructure that will be crucial for the Davis ticket. As a co-chair of the 2008 Democratic National Convention and past president of both the National Conference of State Legislators and the National Hispanic Council of State Legislators LVP has a healthy rolodex to aid her fundraising efforts.

Both Davis and LVP have a steep climb ahead of them. Texas hasn’t elected a Democrat for statewide office in 20 years. But the odds for Davis just got exponentially better. And maybe, just maybe this time next year Texas will see two ladies–Governor Wendy Davis and Lt. Governor Leticia Van de Putte – at the helm of the Lone Star state.

This piece first appeared in the LA Progressive

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