Monday, May 5, 2014

Leticia Van de Putte: Latina Legislator

In late 2003, Texas State Senator Leticia Van de Putte led ten other Texas Senate Democrats to New Mexico as part of a protest against a Republican redistricting plan. The walkout of the “Texas Eleven” made national headlines; it also deprived the state senate of a quorum and temporarily froze all legislative action.

As Sharon A. Navarro shows in Latina Legislator, the dramatic boycott is a fitting image for the current lieutenant governor candidate’s life and career. Though she initially ran for office on a shoestring budget, Senator Van de Putte has successfully authored and sponsored legislation that has reformed the state welfare system, revamped the Juvenile Code, and provided a healthcare safety net for children in Texas. Multiple civic and community groups have recognized her as one of the most effective and influential lawmakers in Texas.

She entered Texas politics when few women and even fewer Latinos were elected to office. She is a sixth-generation Texan and has deep roots in the state. A long-time friend and DNC finance chair said she is known for walking into a crowd and saying, "Buenos Noches, y’all." Gilberto Hinojosa, chair of the Texas Democratic Party, tells a similar story. He said she can walk into a room of skeptical West Texas farmers and connect with them.

CNN says Van de Putte’s profile is on the rise and that the Latina legislator could potentially accomplish what no Democrat has done in 20 years – win state office.

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