Leticia Van de Putte did not announce her candidacy for lieutenant governor when she addressed the Bexar County Young Democrats on Wednesday night.
But it was the way Van de Putte didn’t announce it that provided encouragement to the 35 party activists in the Weston Centre conference room and fed the growing buzz that San Antonio’s veteran state senator might have her name on a statewide ballot next year.
This is what we know: Van de Putte is more amenable to a lite-guv campaign this time around than she was four years ago, when Democratic leaders urged her to enter the fray and she turned them down.
One reason the idea looks better to her now is that all six of her kids have graduated from college, and, as she said with a laugh, “are on someone else’s health care plan.”
The other obvious difference is the political phenomenon that Wendy Davis, Van de Putte’s friend and Senate colleague, has become since she filibustered for 11 hours on the Senate floor in opposition to a bill designed to restrict abortion access.
Van de Putte said she plans to meet with Davis sometime this week and made it clear that she wouldn’t entertain the thought of a statewide run without her friend at the top of the ticket.
“It has to be the right combination and a synergy,” Van de Putte told me after her speech. “It’s got to be a cumulative strength.”
While we wait for that decision, we get to put up with the joker that is our current Lite Guv and his chucklehead main opponent.
During his first public encounter with three Republican challengers, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst on Monday spent an uncomfortable hour in Houston defending his 10-year record against assertions he allowed Democrats and “mob rule” to thwart the passage of conservative legislation.
In a debate sponsored by Houston’s Ronald Reagan Republican Women’s Club, Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, said missteps by Dewhurst permitted Fort Worth Democrat Wendy Davis to nearly derail abortion regulations with a filibuster in June that could have been prevented.
“Wendy Davis should never have had the floor that day,” Patrick said. “There are many ways we could have stopped that from happening.”
Though Davis blocked passage of the bill only temporarily, Patrick blamed the theatrics surrounding the legislation on “a lack of planning, a lack of leadership, a lack of vision.” He said he decided to challenge Dewhurst after a shouting crowd in the gallery temporarily halted Senate work in late June.
“As lieutenant governor, I will not ever let mob rule take over the Senate,” he said.
Patrick claimed that Democrats have been allowed to block legislation on sanctuary cities and school choice largely because Dewhurst has given them too much power.
“I will not appoint half of the Democrats as chairman of committees,” he said.
Dewhurst responded that Democrats led only five of 17 Senate committees and assured the crowd that none of them was important.
I’m going to outsource my response on this to Ed Sills, who summed it up beautifully in his daily email:
Not important? This might be news to Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, who chairs the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. The panel has helped lead Texas toward some true cutting-edge, bipartisan reforms – perhaps the one area in which Texas has pioneered a progressive and much-imitated approach to legislation in recent years.
It might be news to Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, who chairs the Government Organization Committee, Sen. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen, who chairs the Intergovernmental Relations Committee, Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, who chairs the Jurisprudence Committee, Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, who chairs the Senate Open Government Committee, and Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, who chairs the Veteran Affairs and Military Installations Committee.
(In fact, it was news to Van de Putte, who published a letter she sent to Dewhurst expressing “great shock” that he thinks the panel that addresses veterans issues was not “important.” See her letter.)
It might be news to Texas veterans, who have prospered from legislation approved by Van de Putte’s committee. It might be news to the many statewide Republican incumbents who have touted the importance of governmental “transparency” that neither Ellis’s nor Zaffirini’s committees matter much to Dewhurst.
It might also be news to Dewhurst, who apparently didn’t realize he has actually appointed six Democrats to chairmanship positions, not five. (Shades of Gov. Rick Perry?)
But the criticism here shouldn’t focus solely on Dewhurst. What Patrick is saying is even more dangerous for working families in Texas. Patrick has made it clear he wants the Texas Senate run like Congress, in which the majority party dominates the agenda and the process. More specifically, he wants it run like the U.S. House, where that dominance is closer to absolute; in the U.S. Senate, the minority party does have the ability to gum up the works and must be reckoned with.
If Patrick becomes Lieutenant Governor and has his way, the “two-thirds rule,” which requires that large majority to cast a procedural vote before legislation can be discussed on the Senate floor, would be no more. We knew that already, based on Patrick’s previous efforts to change the rule. What we didn’t know (though admittedly we could have guessed) was that Patrick apparently intends to let the Republican caucus do all the legislating whenever disagreement runs along partisan lines.
Given the number of enemies Dan Patrick has accumulated among his fellow Republicans, it’s entirely possible that the Senate – which gets to set its own rules, including the rules about what the Lite Guv gets to do – could strip him of power if he wins. Note the comments of the Texas Trib insiders to this point. Sure, they’d likely de-fang Lt. Gov. Van de Putte as well, but on the plus side, a Lt. Gov. Van de Putte would mean that the only way either Dan Patrick or David Dewhurst would get onto the Senate floor is with a visitor’s pass, after having been checked to make sure they’re not carrying any jars of feces, of course. BOR, Texpatriate, Texas Leftist, and Texas Politics have more.