Texas Democrats’ long-awaited lieutenant governor hopeful Leticia Van de Putte announced her candidacy Saturday morning in San Antonio, to a roomful of applause, mariachi music and waving Texas flags.
Though she’s served in the Texas Legislature since 1991, she’s best known for the question she asked in June from the Senate floor, which set off 15 minutes of shouting from the gallery after Wendy Davis’ famous filibuster. She referenced that line during her announcement today. “As lieutenant governor,” she said, “I’ll make sure that women’s voices are truly heard.”
Annie’s List organizers estimated that nearly 700 supporters filled San Antonio College’s Candler Physical Education Center for the event.
Van de Putte’s speech, which lasted less than half an hour, emphasized education, veterans’ rights, and health care. But she also touched on LGBT rights and women’s health and equality. She said she’ll fight to make sure that “your job security isn’t determined by who you love,” and that “women will never be treated again the way they have been treated by our government.”
“I’ll be the lieutenant governor who understands that fundamental rights, and dignity, and self-determination, and opportunities for women are not a pawn in some political game,” she said. “While [Republicans] wage that war on women, they’ve cut funding and closed clinics that Texas women relied for the only preventative health care that they could afford. Doesn’t Texas deserve better than that?”
She made several mentions of Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s bending to an increasingly conservative Republican Party. “It gets wackier every day. They’re all trying to out-extremist each other,” she said. “They’re too afraid of their own primary voters to provide any leadership whatsoever.”
As proof, she pointed to Perry’s veto of a bill protecting fair pay for women. Davis authored the bill in this past legislative session, and it passed both chambers before Perry vetoed it after receiving a letter from retailers opposed to it. “I’ll fight to make sure we pass that bill,” she said today, “so it can be signed into law, by Governor Wendy Davis!”
Van de Putte took aim at the GOP’s recent appeals to Hispanic voters, cheering, “You can’t fight for the Hispanic vote unless you’re willing to fight for Hispanic families!” And then she turned her attention to what she called Perry’s “hyper-partisan fight over healthcare.”
“They turn their backs on Medicaid expansion that would’ve created jobs and added billions into the Texas economy,” she continued. “Their failure means that 65,000 veterans will be left without affordable health care.”
Later in the day, Van de Putte joined Davis at a press event in Austin, where Davis briefly thanked her supporters and took questions. Davis has been largely out of the spotlight since a trip to the Rio Grande Valley, after which her campaign was seared by a column in McAllen’s Monitor.
Both candidates chatted with volunteers and answered questions, but kept their distance before the cameras—they were together in the room for just five minutes and did not pose for any press photos together.
“I think Leticia stands for the true values of Texas families. … I think she’s going to make an excellent candidate and an excellent lieutenant governor,” Davis told reporters. “She’ll most certainly add to the dynamic in 2014.”
“Women make excellent candidates, and they make excellent leaders,” Davis said, when asked about the many women launching statewide campaigns in the past month. “I’m very pleased to see the diversity of people who are running for office here in Texas.”
Van de Putte took her turn with the reporters to weigh in on the Republican primary field battling over the lieutenant governor’s job, which has traditionally been considered the most powerful in the state. When Dewhurst was asked earlier this week about Van de Putte’s plans to challenge him, he said, “I’m not sure that I’ll have to worry about her.” Van de Putte bit back this afternoon.
“I think the four GOP candidates are pretty busy trying to rip each other apart,” she said. “They need to focus on that race.”