Story by Darwin Campbell, African-American News&Issues
Houston – It is one of the most powerful elected office in the country and one of the highest respected in Texas.
The question is whether Blacks in Texas turnout and vote or once again concede that power in the Lt. Governor’s office to the Republicans and Dan Patrick.
Democrat Leticia Van De Putte is in the race to give Democrats a fighting chance at taking back a seat that has been held by Republicans for decades. But first, she wants African-American and Hispanic voters to understand what this political race is all about.
On Children and the Future of Texas
“The most important thing state government can do is provide for a solid education,” Van de Putte said in an exclusive visit to 6130 Wheatley Street with members of the African-American News&Issues Editorial Board. “Our children, students and the next generation are our workforce. You gotta get kids to and thru our public school systems so that they can be ready for that next step, whether it’s technical programs, vocational education, community college or the 4-year institutions. You must prepare each to live a life of dignity, but first they must get through school.”
This self made businesswoman is a 6th generation Texan that visited African-American News&Issues offices to sit down and share her visions and ideas for the Texas, its people, its future workforce and its children.
“I am in this race because for me, it’s all about children and families,” Van de Putte said. “I care about the community, its schools, it’s parents and children and am focused and determined to be a true voice for them.”
The Lt. Governor appoints the Senate Finance Committee which controls the budget process; controls the floor agenda determining which bills make it for debate or not and assigns committees and chairs in a way to ensure strong leadership. The position in Texas is powerful because it sets the focus and direction of law making in Texas and set the course for any and all issues facing every Texan.
Van De Putte Mini-Bio
She is a practicing pharmacist and has operated her small business since 1980. She currently represents Texas Senate District 26, which included a large portion of San Antonio – the seventh largest city in the United States- and Bexar County. She graduated from the University of Texas and was a fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Her legislative service and representation to the people of Texas in the legislature goes back to 1991.
Over the past 20 years, she has built a Texas-size reputation as a strong advocate for children, active duty military, veterans and their families and has fought tirelessly for strong Texas schools and a vibrant economy that supports jobs.
She has been married to her husband Pete for 37 years and they have six children and six grandchildren.
Why Dan is Not the Man
Van de Putte made it clear that she is in the race to move Texas forward and decided to run because of the poisonous divisive campaign rhetoric and politics based on race and fear coming from the Republicans and opponent Dan Patrick.
“Dan Patrick is about taking us back to a time that none of us want to think about,” she said. “Texas doesn’t deserve to go back to a time when it was an “us versus them” world.”
Van de Putte made it clear that Patrick is thinking backward and looking to turn back the clock and take Texas back to the days of Jim Crow segregation and separate but equal ideals.
“Dan Patrick is for divisiveness and focuses on issues that divide us rather than provide a structure for what unites us,”she said. “He is a fan of going back to a past that Texas is not proud of. He does not support voting rights and wanted the Voter Photo I.D. Law. A Dan Patrick Texas is not the type of Texas I want for my grand children or for the next generation.”
She said his record is clear that he is not right for Texas because he is out of step with people who are not like him and supports controlling access to ballot box rather than giving people the ability to let their voices be heard and wishes made known by voting and being civilly engaged.
She also noted that Patrick fought and voted for budget cuts in 2011 that hurt children in Pre-K, public schools and secondary schools and colleges and universities.
“Dan Patrick voted for $5 billion in cuts and worse he bragged about it and he still brags about the cuts – hundred of millions in cuts for our children,” she said. “We know for African-American students and Latino students the strongest thing we can do to ensure their success is to provide the power of an early childhood education. Dan Patrick took pride in ripping those funds from our three and four year olds.”
Patrick also has also attacked veterans and small business voting against a veteran entrepreneur program and not supporting the HUBS program. He also voted NO on water and transportation projects for better Texas highways.
“It is important to make the connection for the community and children. This election is important because state government will determine the opportunities that will be there for our children,” she said. “Working as pharmacist for 34 years, I know most people care about their health enough to do what is best to keep their health. Much more, I believe they will do what it takes to come out with the understanding that the election is not about them, but to it’s about making the connection that voting in this election is about their children. If I know anything, its about the family.”
On Voting and Turnout
She said there are things people should know when it comes to voting in a mid-term election.
She intends to change the course of past Democrats, who failed by using television and radio spots to take the place of personally visiting with voters and sharing that message with the people in person.
“African-American and Latinos do care about their children and care about schools and communities,” she said.“Candidate and politicians must be there to show they care and will work the families and neighborhoods.”
Her plan is simple. Take her fight to individual churches and communities and let the people know that she cares and why she is in the race. She admits that she needs the voter support and turnout, but want voters to understand that it is important that showing up at the ballot box is not for her, but for the future of children and families.
Here message to Blacks and Hispanics is simple. I will come to you because you are most important.
“We need that energy and that participation and influence from Black and Hispanic communities, but we will go work for it and ask for it,” she said.
Van de Putte said what sets her apart with voters is her ability to be a coalition builder and problem solver who cares, understands and listens.
“I am someone who understands incarceration, justice and victims of the system,” she said. “I understand and can work both sides of isle and know the values of having strong schools and more opportunities.”
She said getting rid of abject poverty, lack of opportunities and the inability to succeed goes a long way in building better lives for citizens.
“Proving opportunities to live in dignity and take pride in where you live helps reduce the symptoms of social ills and crimes plaguing society,” she said. “Nobody wakes up and says my dream is to be in prison or says my dream is for my children to work minimum wage jobs all their lives. It’s not about asking for handouts, it’s about getting a hand up and using a strong structure to help guide people towards making good decisions.”