The Texas Tribune reports that State Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-Bexar County), a long serving rank-and-file legislator, will join the Lieutenant Governor’s race. Van de Putte, who stepped into the national spotlight during the Wendy Davis filibuster, has since become a nationwide hero of liberals for her impassioned defense of abortion rights.
Van de Putte will face Maria Alvarado, a political nobody and the 2006 nominee for Lieutenant Governor, in the Democratic primary. However, at press time, Alvarado has not yet filed for office and may not even end up running. Either way, Van de Putte is heavily favored to prevail by a large margin, given both her high name recognition and well-financed campaign.
The incumbent Lieutenant Governor, David Dewhurst, of course will face a crowded Republican primary just to get another chance at keeping his job. Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and State Senator Dan Patrick are all vying to knock off Dewhurst and win the nomination for themselves. Because of this, the four candidates have often tried to one-up each other, tacking to the right on more and more issues. Recently, in fact, the candidates flirted with the idea of repealing the 17th amendment (direct election of US Senators) and impeaching President Obama. It is unclear how much this will help Van de Putte.
A recent poll by PPP showed Van de Putte trailing Dewhurst in a general election matchup by 9 points. The race was significantly closer than the 15 point lead they predicted Greg Abbott held over Wendy Davis, the presumptive Democratic candidate for Governor and a State Senator. Conventional wisdom would predict that a more conservative Republican nominee –such as Patrick– would cause the gap to shrink even more.
Reportedly, Van de Putte will focus on education, employment and veterans throughout her campaign. Van de Putte has a reputation for being somewhat more centrist than Davis, though she still holds liberal views on important social issues, such as abortion and gay rights.
As I have stated before, the mixture of Davis and Van de Putte will bring desperately needed legitimacy to the race. Van de Putte, unlike the party’s previous two nominees, has a long history with Dewhurst on account of her tenure in the State Senate. While I am not prepared to make prognostications involving the competitiveness of the actual election results, I am confident the process will at least be more competitive. Van de Putte will debate Dewhurst if he is the nominee, and any Republican will regonize her candidacy as a force to be reckoned with.