Van de Putte Announces for Lt. Gov.;
AP on Democratic ‘Stark Contrast’ for 2014;
Anglin on George P. Bush;
Democrat Brown Files for Railroad Commissioner;
Boyuls Releases 100-Member Statewide Leadership Team;
Defund Obamacare Round Two?
Good evening from Austin.
Here’s the short end-of-weekend brief:
VAN DE PUTTE ANNOUNCES FOR LT. GOV.
TT’s Morgan Smith and Alana Rocha report:
Long rumored to be a contender, state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte has now made it official: She is running for lieutenant governor.
“I want to be your lieutenant governor because Mama ain’t happy — because Texas, we can do better,” Van de Putte said in a roughly 25-minute speech Saturday that touched heavily on the importance of family in her life.
On stage in a San Antonio College gymnasium, where her campaign estimated about 500 supporters gathered, the six-term Democratic senator did not shy from attacking the state’s Republican leadership, which she said had forgotten about mainstream Texans.
“For years, the governor’s been too busy trying to be president, and for years the lieutenant governor’s been trying to be in the U.S. Senate — nobody’s been minding the store,” Van de Putte said. “We cannot afford to keep kicking the can down the road because some Republicans are afraid of their primary voters.”
Van de Putte joins her Senate colleague, Wendy Davis of Fort Worth, at the top of the Democratic ticket. Davis, who gained national attention this summer with an 11-hour filibuster of legislation restricting access to abortion, is running for governor. The Republican field in the lieutenant governor’s race includes incumbent David Dewhurst, who is being challenged by state Sen. Dan Patrick, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples.
A Democrat has not won a statewide election in Texas since 1994, and the last serious attempt the party made to field a competitive statewide ticket was in 2002. In 2010, the party nominated union leader Linda Chavez-Thompson, for lieutenant governor. She received 35 percent of the vote, while Bill White, the party’s gubernatorial candidate, earned 42 percent.
And while Van de Putte has yet to start fundraising in earnest — and will have some time before the general election season begins to make up lost ground — she has not built up the same formidable campaign war chest as some of her colleagues during her time in the Senate. The July campaign finance reports, the latest available, showed she had about $300,000 in cash on hand.
On Saturday, Van de Putte said she knew her opponents would say the race wasn’t winnable for a Democrat. But she said she would be a leader who would not ignore the “real-life priorities” of mainstream Texas families to chase after the “the most extreme five percent of Texans who control Republican primary elections.”
She said that under Republican watch, the state Legislature has underfunded public schools and transportation and has played politics while veterans went without health care. Van de Putte also set up a sharp contrast between her position and that of the state’s elected officials on social issues like equal pay and access to health care for women, and the right to work without facing discrimination just because of “who you love.”
“I’ll be the lieutenant governor who understands that fundamental rights, and dignity, and self-determination, and opportunities for women are not a pawn in some political game,” she said.
Making note of the Republican Party’s attempts to reach Hispanic voters, she delivered a message to her audience first in English, then in Spanish.
“Take my word for it, since I’m an actual Hispanic — you can’t successfully fight for the Hispanic vote unless you successfully fight for Hispanic families,” she said.
Van de Putte’s decision to run for lieutenant governor follows a summer in which she was consumed by tragedy — first her infant grandson’s sudden death, then her father’s fatal car accident, then her mother-in-law’s passing. She left her father’s burial on the day of the now-famous filibuster to get back to Austin to help Davis.
“I had nothing,” Van de Putte said of that day in an interview with the Tribune ahead of the announcement. “I was at the bottom of an emotional well.”
As Davis was deciding whether to enter the governor’s race, her own father’s health declined, and Van de Putte said the two women, both suffering, consoled each other.
“The last thing in our minds was what we were both going to do politically,” she said. “It was, how do you fill the hole in your heart?”
As the weeks passed, Van de Putte’s friends and colleagues kept suggesting that she run for lieutenant governor. She considered the other options, she said, wondering, “Who else is there?”
But inspired by her family’s resilience — and bolstered by polling that she said showed her name recognition was far better statewide than she’d known — she decided to make a run.
“My question to a lot of people was … is it doable, is it winnable? I’m just a really competitive person,” she said. “Yes, I want to help out the Democratic Party, but I’m not that good of a soldier. If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it to win.”
In her interview with the Tribune, Van de Putte said she checks a lot of key boxes: female, Latina, pro-business, a veterans advocate. A pharmacist by trade, she served five terms in the Texas House before her election to the Senate in 1999. In that time, she has become known for her focus on public schools and veterans issues — two areas with bipartisan appeal.
“Leticia is an extremely well-respected member of the Legislature. She is very capable, very able,” said Bryan Eppstein, a Republican political consultant. “I think she is a great advocate for the Democratic Party and for her district.”
Unlike her running mate Davis, who, despite her moderate roots on the Fort Worth City Council, tends to rank among the most liberal lawmakers in the state Senate, Van de Putte is better known as a centrist.
That could benefit her in a general election against a Republican opponent coming out of a primary competing for their party’s right-wing base, said Mark Jones, the chairman of Rice University’s political science department.
“She’s never been one of the most conservative Democrats, but she certainly has the record of a centrist Democrat, so it’s much more difficult to paint her as an out-of-touch liberal,” said Jones.
On Saturday, Van de Putte had strong words for the way the GOP race for lieutenant governor has gone so far.
“It gets wackier every day,” she said. “They are just trying to out-extremist each other.”
When contacted by the Tribune, the Patrick campaign had no comment on Van de Putte’s candidacy. Staples used Van de Putte’s announcement as an opportunity to attack the incumbent.
“Energized Texas Democrats are the result of the failed leadership of David Dewhurst,” he said in a statement. “By allowing Democrats to take over the Senate, Dewhurst made a national hero out of Wendy Davis and inspired [President] Obama’s Battleground Texas.”
Dewhurst himself has said he does not consider Van de Putte a threat.
“I’m not sure I’ll have to worry about her,” he told reporters in Austin this week. “But it’ll be a very interesting campaign, to compare her pretty liberal views on growing the state of Texas and my views.”
The next stop for Van de Putte on Saturday afternoon was a campaign event with Davis in Austin. But Van de Putte told the Tribune that while she expects her fundraising to overlap with Davis’ some, she hopes to also draw support from national groups committed to electing Latinos to statewide office.
“I think at times we will probably be at some events together,” she said. “I don’t think Leticia and Wendy are going to be holding hands at every event we’re at. That’s not a useful allocation of time management.”
Both Van de Putte and Davis stepped into a phone bank Saturday afternoon full of volunteers for Battleground Texas and the state Democratic Party. The two candidates didn’t appear together long enough for photos. Their visits only briefly overlapped.
In separate interviews with the media, Davis and Van de Putte spoke highly of each other and said they will regularly campaign jointly over the next 11 months.
“Both of us believe that the values of our Texas families who support strong public education, access to higher education and taking care of our veterans are some of the most important values that we possess as a community,” Davis said. “And so you can expect that both of us will be talking about that on the campaign trail.”
Davis said education, veterans issues and jobs will be the focus of both campaigns. “We have so much to be proud of,” Davis said, “but the Texas miracle is one that we need to keep going, and the only way we’ll keep that Texas miracle strong and hold to our promise to the people of Texas is to keep a strong education system so that we have a well-trained workforce.”
The women acknowledged the momentous nature of their run. It is the first time two women have run at the top of a major party ticket in Texas. “It is going to be rather historic,” Van de Putte said. “But there will be a great contrast I think with what most Texans will view with their future, and what the same old trite ideas that we’ve gotten from our current leadership.”
AP: DEMS OFFERING ‘STARK CONTRAST’
AP’s Chris Tomlinson reports:
Texas voters won’t have a hard time telling the difference between the Republican and Democratic candidates next year.
With the addition of San Antonio Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, attorney Sam Houston and party activist Steve Brown last week, the Democratic slate offers a vivid contrast to the Republican ticket, both in demographics and politics. And there are more announcements to come.
So far, Democrats are offering a diverse roster with most running unopposed on a strong progressive record, not unlike the so-called Dream Team in 2002. Republicans are more conservative than ever, with a ticket that is predominantly white and male.
The Democrats lost dramatically in 2002 and haven’t won a statewide elected office since 1994. But this year they are banking on delivering more supporters to the polls, while Republicans are relying on a dependable conservative base that has kept them in power for 20 years.
Van de Putte, a Latina pharmacist and businesswoman, gained statewide fame among abortion rights activists when she protested the way Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst treated her and Wendy Davis during the filibuster against a law restricting access to abortions. Now she’s running unopposed for the Democratic nomination to replace him, promising better treatment of the middle class.
Dewhurst, meanwhile, is taking ever-more conservative positions to fend off three Republican challengers. The bruising campaign against Houston Sen. Dan Patrick, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson has all four taking stridently opposing abortion rights and proposed immigration reforms.
Davis has taken a “no-labels” approach to her campaign for governor, leaving the word Democrat off of her placards, letting Republicans bring up abortion-rights advocacy and instead focusing on public education funding. Abbott opposes abortion in all cases, except to protect the life of the mother, and has campaigned on states’ rights, gun rights and privacy issues.
Houston, a Baylor-trained attorney, announced last week he would seek the Democratic nomination for attorney general. In addition to his famous name, he won the endorsement of The Dallas Morning News when he ran for Texas Supreme Court justice in 2008 and won more votes than any other Democrat that year. He says the attorney general needs to protect Texas citizens, not sue the federal government 30 times, one of Abbott’s key talking points.
In the Republican race to replace Abbott, the three candidates have staked out some of the most right-wing positions so far, focusing on banning abortion, allowing open carry of handguns and opposing gay marriage. Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman, McKinney Sen. Ken Paxton and Dallas Rep. Dan Branch know they need the Republican grassroots to win the nomination.
Steve Brown, the Fort Bend County Democratic Party chairman, has announced his candidacy for railroad commissioner, becoming the first black Democratic statewide candidate so far. The only black Republican for statewide office is Lisa Fritsch, an outsider candidate for governor.
Both parties will draw stark contrasts next year, each side confident they reflect the views of the majority of Texans. Republicans argue, based on their winning streak, that Texas is a conservative state that will always elect Republicans.Texas also has the lowest voter turnout in the nation, Democrats say, and the majority of eligible Texas voters are either minorities or liberals. They say getting more Texans to vote is the key to their victory, and Republican policies will help them accomplish that.
The result has been two very different tactics during primary season. The Davis campaign brags about making 100,000 phone calls to potential voters. Battleground Texas, the PAC hoping to turn Texas blue, is training thousands of field organizers and voter registrars.
Abbott has spent much of his time introducing himself to Republican activists and promulgating conservative policies that appeal to tea party members. The Republican candidates for lieutenant governor, meanwhile, have held nearly a dozen candidate forums where they tear each other down.
Going into the election, momentum is certainly with the Republicans, who voted for Mitt Romney over President Barack Obama by 16 percentage points. In the 2002 election, Gov. Rick Perry defeated Tony Sanchez, leader of the Dream Team, by 18 percentage points.
Democrats have a long way to go to win in 2014, but no one can say they’re not offering Texas voters a distinct choice.
ANGLIN ON GEORGE P. BUSH
SAEN columnist Maria Anglin writes this week about the candidacy of George P. Bush:
Last Tuesday, George P. Bush tweeted the good news.
“It’s official! I filed my paperwork this afternoon to be your Republican candidate for Texas Land Commissioner — lots of work ahead and excited to potentially serve this Great State! #txlandcomm”
He also uploaded photographic evidence of the occasion on Instagram: a pic of himself wearing a snazzy blue tie, signing the paperwork. It wasn’t a professional photo, just a snapshot probably taken by an acquaintance or staffer who captured the moment on the smartphone. Good thing, too, because signing his name while taking one of those arm’s-length selfies might have come across as bush league.
By Wednesday morning, TeamGeorgeP had about 130 Instagram likes. His campaign’s Facebook page? 117k. Thumbs up!
It’s hard not to be hopeful for this guy, and just a tad worried. This is not because of the impact George might have on the General Land Office, either; it’s doubtful he’ll spend a great deal of time fretting about such stuff as Floyd Mayweather promoting fights in front of the Alamo. He and his GOP backers have eyes on bigger stuff.
He’s a young, Spanish-speaking heir to an American political dynasty stepping into the spotlight at precisely the moment that young, Spanish-speaking Republicans are just what the party ordered. But anybody who’s been paying attention since Bush 41 referred to his son Jebby’s kids as “the little brown ones,” knows George has been heading in this direction for years.
In that spirit, P. Bush refers to himself on georgepfor texas.org as “part of the next generation of Texas leaders.” Even if he never wins a public office, his bio shows that he’s well-established in business and political circles and very, very busy.
Before he went to law school, he taught at-risk kids in Miami; then he worked on Uncle George’s presidential campaign and became a lawyer. Then, after he became a lawyer, he joined the Naval Reserve and spent some time in Afghanistan. He’s also involved in at least a couple of political action committees.
We know little of his politics but, if nothing else, the bio shows he’s earned the next-generation-of-leaders bragging rights and isn’t getting by on the accomplishments and considerable scratch of his family. A guy this focused, with this much promise and upside, could be the next big thing; he could change the image of the party that is trying desperately to stop looking like Dick Cheney. That’s good news for every American, because we need both of our two big parties to represent everyone.
But here’s what’s scary: being part of a dynasty creates mighty high expectations from the public. And the public doesn’t always play fair.
If P. Bush is putting out the new-generation tune, he will have to work hard to avoid the meet-the-new-Bush, same-as-the-old-Bush song and dance, because that’s what a lot of the public will be expecting. Some will expect loyalty based on his family ties or on the color of his skin. Others will hold the accomplishments and shortcomings of his family against him. No matter what he does, earns, works toward, fixes or compromises, public perception can turn the tide quicker than you can point out that such a thing wouldn’t be prudent.
And in the era of lightning-fast, social media self-promotion and selfies, a lot of things aren’t prudent at all.
Your absolute must clicks:
> Fort Bend County Democratic chairman Steve Brown announces bid for Railroad Commissioner.
> Republican Railroad Commissioner candidate Malachi Boyuls released his 100-member statewide leadership team.
> Round two of ‘defund Obamacare’ from U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)?
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– The AAS editorial board gives (behind paywall) the LCRA a boost of support.
2013 / 2014 / 2016:
– In her weekly column, SAEN / Chron’s Peggy Fikac reviews (behind paywall) encouraging and discouraging signs for a potential 2016 candidacy for Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX).
– Chron continues it’s investigation of U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX), revealing (behind paywall) questions about the source of his income.
– AAS reports (behind paywall) on the new city council map in Austin.
– TT’s Ross Ramsey looks at the differences between Texas’ two U.S. Senators.
– Lubbock A-J’s Enrique Rangel sees 2014 being the strongest top of the ticket for Democrats in many years.
Other stories of interest:
– An update on the Texarkana woman who sent ricin to President Obama.
– FWST reports (behind paywall) that U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) is working to help families of the shooting at Fort Hood.
– Sen. Cornyn believes that the Iran nuclear deal is a ‘distraction’ from the political fight over Obamacare.
– In his weekly column, DMN’s Todd Gillman notes the flip flopping of two U.S. Senators on the “nuclear option” — Sen. Cornyn and then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL).
– The Chron editorial board details the economic significance of dredging to accommodate the Panama Canal expansion.
– The Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos media market has created tech jobs at a faster rate than any other media market in the U.S. since 2001. (Tech employment has expanded 41% in that time)
Your Daily Source of Inspiration:
– Bill Cosby’s five life lessons.