State Senator Leticia Van de Putte uttered one of the most famous phrases of the 2013 fight over abortion restrictions at the Legislature when she said, “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?” But she had no trouble being heard Tuesday, bidding the Senate farewell to run for mayor of San Antonio.
While the abortion debate was bitter and partisan, on Tuesday the 24-year senator won praise from colleagues in both parties for the work she did for her city and for the veterans of Texas.
One Republican senator, Kel Seliger, held up a card Van de Putte had given him in memory of her father. On the day of Wendy Davis’s filibuster, Van de Putte had famously come straight from her father’s funeral to the Senate to fight the abortion bill. “While we disagree sometimes and those disagreements are contentious, what makes this body work is its mutual respect,” Seliger said. Democratic Senator John Whitmire of Houston told her, “I’m not saying goodbye, because I think you’ll be down here lobbying for the city in no time.”
Van de Putte said she was pleased to have worked with a number of Republican senators on veteran affairs and said she was proud of the late Republican Senator Tom Haywood for breaking with his party to help pass the James Byrd hate crime law. “He said it might not be the right thing politically but it was the right thing to do,” Van de Putte said.
In a dramatic let-bygones-be-bygones moment, Van de Putte faced Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick—the author of the 2013 abortion law and her opponent in last fall’s general election—and promised to work with him in the future: “I stand as your partner for the best interests of the people of this state.”
For an in-depth look at Van de Putte’s career, please read this interview with my colleague Brian Sweany from her unsuccessful run for lieutenant governor against Patrick last year.