The Senator From San Antonio

Leticia Van de Putte, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, on Wendy Davis, Dan Patrick, and why she doesn’t hold grudges.
Photograph by Wyatt McSpadden

San Antonio’s Leticia Van de Putte may be a pharmacist by training, but her calling has been her work in the Legislature: she served in the House for ten years before winning a special election to the Senate in 1999, where she has served ever since. Now the 59-year-old Democrat stands as her party’s nominee for lieutenant governor. In the November election she will face Dan Patrick, a fiery Republican senator from Houston who defeated the incumbent, David Dewhurst, in a primary runoff in May.

Brian D. Sweany: Senator, we’re talking one week after the state Democratic convention, and I’m wondering if it accomplished what you had hoped it would.

Leticia Van de Putte: The Democratic convention is always a place where you see the activists in the party: the precinct chairs, the people who will walk around their neighborhoods and call their family and friends. So I think of it like I’m seeing my family. What was amazing to me was the number of young people and the increased diversity. And by increased diversity, I mean I saw so many veterans and their families. I saw a lot of small-business owners. I saw a lot of folks who are involved in their chambers of commerce. I saw farmers and ranchers. I saw inner-city business folks. Quite frankly, I didn’t see that diversity four years ago.

BDS: How do you think that will translate in the November election? The convention is about “family,” but you’ll have to reach beyond that group to be competitive.

LVDP: My family is anybody who wants to put Texas first. I’m not going to appeal to those voters who want to divide us and harp on issues that don’t create jobs or don’t solve our infrastructure problems. But if you’re here for Texas, if you understand our responsibility to the next generation, then I think my message is going to resonate. I’m known as a centrist Democrat, and I have always been a pro-business Democrat.

BDS: As you said at the convention, you’re not an East Coast liberal.”

LVDP: I’m a small-business owner who is very proud to be a Democrat. I think that we do our state harm when we portray all Democrats as left-wing liberals or all Republicans as far-right extremists. I belong to a big party with diverse interests, and we’re not going to agree 100 percent on every single issue. But what we do agree on is that you move forward, and you do the things that are going to create success for the future. When I look at the Democratic convention, we were having fun, we were energized, we had hope. When I look at the Republican convention, they were mad, they were angry, and that was quite visible. Now, are both bases energized? Of course. But, you know, the Democratic party went through its own purity battles. It didn’t work out very well. When the pendulum swings too far to one side, in time the people will correct that.

BDS: The 2014 elections are a transformative year because you have so much activity in the major statewide races. The Republicans had very competitive primaries with multiple candidates, but I can’t say the same for the Democrats. For example, your nominee for agriculture commissioner, Jim Hogan, isn’t campaigning and he didn’t attend

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