Leticia Van de Putte

Photo Credit: Stephanie Tacy | Daily Texan Staff

The Texas Senate gained a new member Wednesday as Sen. José Menéndez took over Leticia Van de Putte‘s seat representing San Antonio.

Menéndez, a House member representing San Antonio since 2001, took his oath of office surrounded by members of the Senate, his family and constituents in the Senate chamber. In a speech following his oath, Menéndez touted public education for Texas children, especially immigrants, and cooperation between parties.

Menéndez won Van de Putte’s seat in a runoff election against state Rep. Trey Martinez Fisher (D-San Antonio) last month.  

As the son of immigrant parents, Menéndez said he has faced the issues of public education and immigration firsthand.

“For a young man that went to his first day of kindergarten not knowing how to speak English, many of the issues that we talk about — these laws and how we are going to do public education — these are issues I lived,” Menéndez said.

Potential laws and issues that impact children need to be prominent in policy discussion this session, Menéndez said.

“We need to take into consideration that every child in every classroom in this great state deserves the opportunity to serve with us, or to be a teacher, or to be a doctor, or whatever they want to be,” Menéndez said. “Their education should not be defined by their zip code.”

Menéndez said he has little interest in the party identifications of his fellow legislators.

“If someone wants to work, I’m there to work side by side whoever wants to get the job done,” Menéndez said.

This session, senators must make tough decisions for “the right reason” in order to implement effective policies for Texans, Menéndez said in his speech.

“Sometimes it’s easier for us to make votes that are politically correct [and] say things that are politically correct, and that’s why, sometimes, I think that people lose faith in what we do and don’t do,” Menéndez said.

At the oath of office ceremony, Sen. John Whitmire (D- Houston) said celebrations such as Menéndez’s swearing-in make the Senate’s process debates and struggles during the legislative session more rewarding.

“An event like today, where we are going to celebrate his public service and this historical occasion, makes all the door knocking very worthwhile,” Whitmire said.

State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio and lieutenant governor candidate, talked about her goals to reform educational policy, veteran services and other issues at a primary election party at Mi Tierra Cafe and Panaderia in San Antonio on Tuesday night.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) stepped down Friday after 24 years in the senate.

Van de Putte announced she would leave the Capitol in January, after loosing the race for lieutenant governor to Dan Patrick in November. The now former San Antonio senator said she plans to run for mayor of San Antonio.

In an emotional farewell on the Senate floor, Van de Putte thanked members of the legislature, their staffs and the press for their work at the Capitol.  

“We are all so very blessed to be part of a legacy blazed long ago in this most deliberative body,” Van de Putte said. “The Texas Senate is a place where you work hard, and you work hard to find common ground despite the political differences.”

In the speech, Van de Putte said her stay as senator would not have been possible without her constituents.

“I thank my fellow San Antonians for allowing me the privilege and the honor of being their voice here at the state Capitol for almost a quarter of a century,” Van de Putte said.

Senator elect José Menéndez (D-San Antonio) will succeed Van de Putte. His swearing-in will take place next Wednesday.

In this week's editorial podcast, Associate Editors Noah M. Horwitz and Amanda Voeller discuss President Barack Obama's recent executive order regrading immigration, Leticia Van de Putte's announcement of her San Antonio mayoral campaign and impeachment articles Student Government drafted against its Chief of Staff Chris Jordan.

Lieutenant Governor-elect Dan Patrick beat State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte in the lieutenant governor race Tuesday evening.

Photo Credit: Jenna VonHofe | Daily Texan Staff

HOUSTON — In a landslide victory, State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, was elected lieutenant governor Tuesday, defeating State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio.

Patrick, a Houston radio talk show host with Tea Party support, performed strongly in the four-man primary and defeated incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in a runoff.

With more than 93 percent of precincts reporting at press time, Patrick received 58 percent of the vote, whereas Van de Putte received 39 percent.

At his election night party in Houston, Patrick opened with a Bible verse before discussing immigration, education and the changing role of Texas in national politics. 

“I’ve met the spirit of Texas by meeting people where they live and listening to what they want,” Patrick said. “What they want is a public servant who will serve them. Here I am tonight to say to every Texan that I’m here to serve you so that Texas can be a servant to the world that is broken, that is hurting and needs leadership.” 

Patrick said he has already started speaking with newly elected Gov. Greg Abbott about their plans for the Texas-Mexico border. 

“I believe that we’re a nation of immigrants,” Patrick said. “We need legal immigration reform from Washington. They failed us. … We have a responsibility of law and order to protect every Texan.”

Patrick said he is looking forward to working closely with the Texas Senate. 

“I am blessed to come into a Senate that has very bright and capable people,” Patrick said. “I will be a lieutenant governor who will empower them to lead, to help craft the solutions [and] to address all these issues that we have ahead of us. I believe that Texas is America’s last hope. … We’re going to make Texas even greater in the days ahead.”

At her election night party in San Antonio, Van de Putte thanked her supporters and family and said there was still work to be done. 

Van de Putte, who will continue to serve in her state Senate seat, said she was aware of the challenges she would face in the election from the very beginning of her campaign. 

“From the first time we announced for this position of lieutenant governor, I knew what I was going to be fighting for,” Van de Putte said. “I knew what the issues were about in this state, and I knew the heart of the people in this state.” 

Van de Putte said she was proud of the work she put into the campaign, despite the losing the race. 

“Although the results didn’t come our way tonight, I know that I am so proud to have been that servant leader — to be up on that ballot,” Van de Putte said. “This race was an uphill battle. I’m so proud of the millions that were raised, of the issues that were brought up.”

Student Avrey Vasquez said he was not surprised by Van de Putte’s defeat but was proud of her courage in overcoming obstacles set up by the election.

“It’s sad, but I think she did well,” Vasquez said. “She’s such a big underdog, and she overcame a lot to get to where she is.”

Mike Lewcun, a Patrick supporter from Sugar Land, said he was relieved by Patrick’s victory. 

“I support what [Patrick] believes in,” Lewcun said. “Border issues are important to me. If we don’t have a secure border, we don’t have a secure anything.”

Mekelburg reported from Houston, and Sullivan reported from San Antonio.

Editor’s Note: Early voting for the Nov. 4 election begins Oct. 20 and ends Oct. 31.

The lieutenant governor of Texas has often been hailed as the most powerful official in the Texas Legislature. With nearly despotic powers over the Texas Senate, the lieutenant governor controls the agendas, the composition of committees and the general demeanor of the chamber. These duties, however, are not guaranteed by the state constitution; instead, they only occur with the consent of the state senators themselves. If so organized, a majority of 16 could vote at the beginning of a session to strip the lieutenant governor of all power beyond breaking ties if so inclined. Thus, with the incumbent lieutenant governor David Dewhurst being replaced after a dozen years in office, it is important to find a replacement willing to get along with other senators and continue the delicate agreement.

State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, the Republican candidate for the post, is not that person. A demagogue willing to take on extreme positions, he prioritizes divisive social issues over real solutions to solve the complex problems that Texas currently faces. Instead of coming up with a plan to make our roads and highways the envy of the world once more, Patrick merely quips in broad platitudes about “securing the border,” using dangerous scare tactics, such as equating undocumented immigrants with disease-carrying invaders. On Oct. 8, he claimed that ISIS was crossing the border with Mexico en masse. Such an assertion, of course, is patently absurd. Last session, when the Legislature was debating how best to restore austerity cuts to education earlier inflicted, Patrick talked out of both sides of his mouth too often to keep track. Despite campaigning for the restoration in front of cameras, he ultimately voted against the budget in order to save his reputation among arch-conservatives. An advocate of school choice, Patrick believes that funding public schools is futile because of their underperformance. Still, he continues to claim that he was a leading advocate for the restoration, a charge that earned him a “pants on fire” rating from Politifact.

State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio and the Democratic candidate, is the polar opposite. Though she can also be fiery and partisan in front of television cameras, she has a proven track record of working behind-the-scenes with legislators of both parties to implement common-sense goals. Be it education, transportation or budget affairs, Van de Putte is not merely content submitting a sound bite; rather, she wants to actually do what is right.

Further, while the phrase “reaching across the aisle” is ubiquitous in clichés of politics, no such aisle exists in the Texas Senate. The senators simply all sit together. The seating is representative of a larger principle of nonpartisanship in the body, best enforced by a rule compelling legislation to stay off the floor unless two-thirds of lawmakers assent to its consideration. The rule, which dates back to the days when Democrats controlled all 31 senate seats, is designed to foster consensus, not facilitate gridlock. Patrick wants to do away with the rule, or lower the threshold to 60 percent, which is conspicuously just below the portion of the chamber that Republicans control; Van de Putte wants to retain the threshold. Without the rule, the Texas Senate will descend into partisan bickering, a cacophony indistinguishable from the mess in Washington.  

At its core, that is what this race is about. Van de Putte represents the Texas values of old. Patrick, on the other hand, is just more of the same grandstanding ever-present in the Capitol and sadly rearing its ugly head more and more often in Texas. Let’s keep the state strong and restore it to its earlier successes. Vote for Van de Putte.

State Sens. Dan Patrick and Leticia Van De Putte participate in last Monday's lieutenant governor debate. 

Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

Last Monday, lieutenant governor hopefuls Dan Patrick and Leticia Van de Putte battled it out in their only scheduled debate before November’s election. The two Senators, who have sat together in the Senate for eight years, clashed over a number of issues in the hour-long debate, sparring over everything from education to border surges to the issue of marriage equality.

Patrick is something of a shoo-in to win the election, boasting a double-digit lead and the endorsement of many business associations throughout the state. He has a strong record of job creation and goals to cut property taxes, both of which ensure widespread popularity in the economic sector. And his views on border surges and abortion laws are somewhat uncontested — this is Texas, after all. He is a Republican representing an overwhelming majority of Republicans, and for the most part, he seems to be relatively in touch with voters.

The issue he would do well to distance himself from, however? Same-sex marriage.

Though the Republican Senator maintains a tellingly significant 15-point lead, much of his approval stems from his approach to business, not from a social issue that is largely beyond his reach. And by insisting on offering unsolicited opinions on an issue that many have declined to politicize, Patrick is damaging his reputation with an increasingly frustrated proportion of Texas voters — moderate Republicans.

“Texas has spoken,” Patrick declared, speaking to the ban on same-sex marriage that was later overturned by a federal judge. “The people of Texas believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman.”

And Van de Putte, whose retorts often appeared scripted and awkward, was at her best during her petition for same-sex marriage. “People’s attitudes are changing,” she declared confidently. “What we voted on back then, I don’t think would be the same results now.”

Yes, Patrick is a staunchly conservative candidate, and he has every right to represent his electorate on any issue he pleases. But if nothing else, the movement to “turn Texas blue” gains traction not from large-scale party flip-flopping from unsure younger voters but from representatives that insist on speaking out against this issue of equality. It is neither the right-to-life policies nor the border surges that are turning the rising generation of Texas voters off. It is a party unwilling to stop speaking out when political endorsements are somewhat unsolicited. 

Deppisch is a government senior from League City. Follow her on Twitter @b_deppy

Lieutenant governor candidates Dan Patrick and Leticia Van de Putte answer questions at a Q-and-A session after a debate Monday evening.

Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

Leading candidates for lieutenant governor, state Sens. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, and Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, faced off at their first and only scheduled debate at the KLRU studio on campus Monday night. The candidates discussed several issues, including border security and public education.

Citing the recently released state audit of the Texas Enterprise Fund, Van de Putte chastised Gov. Rick Perry’s office for the way it handled the fund.

“I was appalled to learn that the governor had instilled a process for our Texas Enterprise Fund that had no accountability,” Van de Putte said. “When it comes to government programs, it shouldn’t be about who you know; it should be what you know.” 

Patrick said he supported ending the Texas Enterprise Fund’s business incentive program.

“I‘ll leave that to the next governor, but I took that position with the latest audit report,” Patrick said. “The best thing we can do is eliminate the business tax and lower property taxes. The real attraction of Texas is our economic opportunities, which are second to none.” 

Van de Putte also said she was proud to sponsor the Texas Dream Act, which gave in-state tuition to undocumented students. 

“This is about what you pay at the registrar’s office,” Van de Putte said. “Hardworking students who have the chance to pay the same should be given that chance. The jobs of the future are going to require a post-high school something. A one-time investment could change a generation.”

Patrick said he took issue with the in-state tuition bill because it raised questions of “fairness.”

“If they live in Oklahoma, and they want to go to any of our schools, why should they have to pay dramatically more than a non-citizen?” Patrick said. “I empathize with those students who have done good jobs and were brought here not on their own, but it’s a question of fairness, and it goes to the heart of why we need was to pass legal
immigration reform.”

Van de Putte agreed with Patrick that the border should be secured, but she said that local law enforcement needed to be more involved.

“We need to make sure our citizens are protected, and we need to listen and respect those local leaders,” Van de Putte said. “I would make sure our local law enforcement officers have the tools and personnel they need to get the job done.”

Van de Putte also accused Patrick of hiding his tax records. 

“I don’t know why my opponent has refused to disclose his taxes,” Van de Putte said. “So, I ask you tonight, Dan, will you disclose your taxes as everyone else has? And, if not, Texans can ask the question, Dan, what are you hiding?”

Patrick said he has been open about his financial situation.

“We filed a financial disclosure form every year,” Patrick said. “My form last year was 168 pages, which lists every stock I own, everything about me you would like to know.”

Patrick also discussed his plan to lower the state’s property tax and instead increase the state’s sales tax. Van de Putte criticized the plan, saying it would hurt city and county governments.

The candidates are not scheduled to debate again before election day. While Van de Putte originally proposed five debates, Patrick only agreed to Monday’s debate in Austin. Speaking with reporters after the debate, Patrick said he did not think that having only one debate was a problem for the voters because additional debates would not give more answers.

The second day of the 2014 Texas Tribune Festival kicked off Saturday with one-on-one interviews with candidates for lieutenant governor, state Sens. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, and Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio.

The candidates touched on different issues, including education, bipartisanship, and health care at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center. They spoke for 30 minutes each, separately from one another.

Patrick said he supports the voucher system and explained his reasoning for wanting students to leave schools if they felt the need to get a better-quality education elsewhere.

“No child should be forced to go to a failing school,” Patrick said. “Almost 10 percent of our schools we rate in the state as failing. Can you imagine to sending your child to a school rated as a failure?”

According to Patrick, students should not be locked into a school district and should be able to cross district lines if their home district is a failing school.

“You should have the opportunity to go to a charter school,” Patrick said. “If you can’t find a public or charter school, then you can apply for a scholarship from private businesses to go to a Catholic school, Christian school or private school.”

Van de Putte spoke more about education after high school. She said she supported paying for Texan students’ community college with the “Texas Promise Plan.”

“It’s not a subsidy; it’s an investment,” Van de Putte said. “Our rainy day fund, even with the withdraw of the water and transportation, will probably be sitting at $8.4 billion. You can take a one-time allocation of $2 billion to the voters, and the proceeds from that could fund every qualified high school graduate for 2 years of community college.”

Van de Putte and Patrick both called for health care reform, although in different ways. Patrick said the government is too involved in health care.

“I want our money to come back in the terms of block grants in the state of Texas," Patrick said. "Our hands are tied in many ways. The federal government is heavily involved. We need to continue and try to provide health care for every Texan.”

Van de Putte chastised Patrick for his lack of public appearances. She said his first press conference, which happened Friday, was too little, too late.

“If voters can’t depend on their leaders to be accessible and accountable to them before their elected, then what kind of behavior will that instill when they are elected?” Van de Putte said.

Patrick said he has been accessible enough, with more than 1,300 meetings with individuals and groups across the state. He defended the rhetoric of the Republican party, which he has spoken about on the campaign trail.

“What I have been saying is the Republicans are not anti-Hispanic, anti-anyone, we are pro-border law and security,” Patrick said.

Patrick stressed his focus on protecting Texans from any dangers across the border and out of the country.

“My one responsibility is to protect the public,” Patrick said. “The DPS estimates we have 100,000 gang members here illegally. We must have legal immigration reform in Washington, but, before that comes, we must secure the border.”

Van de Putte said she also supported securing the border, but that the topic needed to be approached in a sensible manner.

“Just like many people, I am so frustrated at Washington, D.C.,” Van de Putte said. “It seems like both sides of the party is more interested in making the other side look bad than focus on what is needed. [Immigrants] need to have a pathway, they need to pay taxes, not be a criminal, be proficient in English, and they need to get in line.”

Van de Putte said, now that the media portion of her campaign was up, she had an opportunity to take her message to the people.

“Who is Leticia, what does she stand for?” Van de Putte said. “The momentum is there. It’s not just the Latino vote. I’m having a significant Republican crossover on this. Very conservative communities are coming together because they know the difference between a frivolous expense and an investment.”

Government junior Tanner Long said he was disappointed the candidates did not address each other directly.

“I would have preferred Van de Putte and Patrick,” Long said. “However, I think that Van de Putte definitely stayed on message. She conveyed her ideas that puts her in a good light that shows her issues with the Patrick campaign.”

Texas Sen.Wendy Davis speaks to supporters at a rally celebrating the one year anniversary of her filibuster of SB 5. 

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

One year after state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, delayed a vote on an anti-abortion bill with an 11-hour filibuster, a large crowd filled the Palmer Events Center on Wednesday as Democratic gubernatorial candidate Davis and state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio and Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, talked about their top priority to include the voices of all Texans in the legislature.

“We will do these things because it’s both right and necessary,” Davis said. “We’ve got more work to do, more steps to take, a few more mountains to climb as we face the challenge of building the 21st century economy of this beautiful state, and as we do face those challenges.”

Davis’ filibuster did not ultimately stop the Texas Legislature from banning abortions 20 weeks after conception and regulating other aspects of abortion, but it did  delay the bill's passage. During the last minutes of the session, Van de Putte raised a parliamentary inquiry that many say set off 10 minutes of cheering, screaming and clapping from the gallery, delaying the vote. Van de Putte asked, "At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?”

At the event, Van de Putte said even after the demonstration last year, the legislature does not understand the wants of Texas women.

“We sent a clear message to our state and to our nation … that women would just no longer tolerate not being valued, not being listened to. That we would no longer tolerate their lack of trust to make personal decisions in our own lives,” Van de Putte said.

Both Davis and Van de Putte are trailing behind their Republican opponents, according to the most recent UT/Texas Tribune poll numbers. Attorney General Greg Abbott is 12 points ahead of Davis in the gubernatorial race, and state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, is 15 points ahead of Van de Putte.

History senior Max Patterson, president of University Democrats and who has worked Students for Wendy, an on-campus student organization, said he thinks the state needs new leadership.

“Whenever we register somebody to vote, we gauge their support of Wendy Davis, talk to them a little bit about the path that Texas is going on with the current Republican leadership and the one that we would like to see [Texas] going on with more progressive leadership in the state capitol," Patterson said.

Patterson said he is excited about bringing the campaign to campus.

“It’s going to be a really fun campaign, but it’s also going to be a really important one for our community, for the whole state, because it’s really a very distinct choice that’s going to be made for the direction of our state,” Patterson said.

Correction: Due to an editing error, this story incorrectly reported Davis' filibuster was 13 hours long. It was in fact 11 hours long.

Last week, the Texas Tribune —in conjunction with the University— released its second comprehensive poll of the 2014 election cycle. The results paint an unflattering portrait for the Democrats, with state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, trailing Attorney General Greg Abbott in the race for governor by 12 points and state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, behind 15 points against state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Harris County, in the contest for lieutenant governor. Races up and down the ballot from attorney general to railroad commissioner also met similar fates.

However, upon closer examination, the poll does not hold water. Like its counterpart from February, the polling methodology consists of an opt-in survey, supposedly "weighted" for population groups not properly sampled. Furthermore, this month's poll did not even pretend to correct for the gaping geographic inconsistencies. Almost 1/3 of those polled reported being from the Austin area, despite the region holding barely 7 percent of the state's population. And rest assured, my concerns over this poll are not just theoretical. In the March primary, following the February poll, most all of the Tribune's primary predictions proved to be completely worthless.

Like I wrote in this paper last March, serious politicians should not take these polls seriously. Instead, we should wait for a reputable polling firm, one actually worth its weight in paper such as Public Policy Polling or Rasmussen, to gauge the temperature of the race. Davis and Van de Putte being the odds-on underdogs is still likely, but at least this way we can actually shine a light on the state of the race rather than shooting in the dark.

Horwitz is an associate editor.