The first-ever female ticket for Texas governor and lieutenant governor – Democratic state Sens. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth and Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio – couldn’t win the Nov. 4 election.
They couldn’t buck Texas’ Red-State Republican habit of the past two decades. But both are obviously staying active in politics.
Van de Putte has decided to run for mayor of San Antonio, to succeed Julian Castro after President Barack Obama named him Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
The personable pharmacist, mom and grandma is a familiar figure around the Texas capitol, after spending 14 years in the Senate following nine in the Texas House.
She is, of course, still a senator – for now. She drew a four-year term in 2011 following redistricting, and thus did not have to sacrifice her Senate job in 2014 to run for lieutenant governor.
Van de Putte, in announcing Wednesday night (11/19/14) her candidacy to be San Antonio’s next mayor, said she loves the Senate, and was prepared to stay. But she began to get a lot of phone calls.
“I was ready for the new challenges and ready to work with our new lieutenant governor and my colleagues just like I always have,” Van de Putte told reporters in San Antonio. “I’m going to terribly miss that, but I’m answering the call and the outcry to come home and to continue my public service in the city of San Antonio.”
Faced with being one of just 11 Democrats in the 31-member Senate, to be presided over by Dan Patrick, the far-right Republican senator who beat her for lieutenant governor, running to be mayor of her home city where she is quite popular seemed a pretty obvious choice. Van de Putte says she’ll continue to serve as a senator until a successor is elected and sworn in, to avoid diluting the Democratic minority even further.
Van de Putte acknowledged that she had earlier said she wouldn’t run for mayor.
“When asked some time this summer would I consider, I was so focused… on the position of lieutenant governor and winning that race that I said, ‘Absolutely not. It’s not entering in my mind’,” she said. “I didn’t even think about it.”
She’s not the only San Antonio legislator running. State Rep. Mike Villarreal, who had replaced her in the House after she won her senate seat in 1999, has been running since May.
Villarreal said he never expected “a cakewalk” in running to be mayor of the nation’s seventh-largest city.
Villarreal, re-elected Nov. 4, plans to resign his new term immediately after the Legislature convenes Jan. 13.
San Antonio State Reps. Trey Martinez Fischer and Jose Menendez say they’ll seek Van de Putte’s senate seat. Since it will be a special election, they don’t have to relinquish their House seats to run.
As for the special election to fill Villarreal’s House seat, San Antonio City Councilman Diego Bernal and public relations consultant Melissa Aguillon have said they’ll run.
Sen. Davis does not have the luxury of being able to continue as a senator. She had drawn a two-year term for the 2012 election, and thus had to relinquish her senate seat to run for governor. But two weeks after the election, Davis e-mailed subscribers to her governor campaign, pushing “Ready for Hillary,” the effort to draft Hillary Clinton to run for president in 2016.
“Ready for Hillary just announced a huge online organizing goal to find 100,000 new grassroots supporters who are ready to see Hillary get into this race – and help her when and if she does,” Davis wrote.
The draft effort for the former First Lady, New York senator, and secretary of state “started nearly two years ago with just two volunteers and a post office box,” Davis said. “Today, Ready for Hillary is more than three million Americans strong and this grassroots network continues to build every minute of the day.”
Davis said she was “grateful” for Hillary’s support in her governor’s race, and said she has already signed the Ready for Hillary pledge of support.
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Missing, and Missed . . . Grace Garcia, the late head of Annie’s List, killed in a car wreck June 2, was a key political player for these women.
Garcia, a veteran of Texas Democratic politics, worked in Bill Clinton’s campaigns, his White House for eight years, and for Hillary during her four years as secretary of state.
Garcia had helped talk childhood chum Van de Putte into running for lieutenant governor, encouraged Davis’s campaign, and was en route to Dallas for an event for them both when the car she was riding in was crushed by an 18-wheeler.
DAVE MCNEELY is a political columnist. You may contact him at davemcneely111@ gmail or (512)458 2963.