by ALEXA URA
SAN ANTONIO — Two weeks after losing her bid for lieutenant governor, State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte on Wednesday night announced that she was running for mayor of San Antonio and would not finish her term at the Texas Capitol.
Van de Putte, who first announced her candidacy to San Antonio news outlets, told The Texas Tribune that she was moving ahead with her decision to return to the Senate until she began receiving calls from political and community leaders asking her to run for the city’s top office instead.
“I was ready for the new challenges and ready to work with our new lieutenant governor and my colleagues just like I always have,” Van de Putte said. “I’m going to terribly miss that, but I’m answering the call and the outcry to come home and to continue my public service in the city of San Antonio.”
On Thursday, she is expected to send a letter to Gov. Rick Perry declaring her intent to resign, giving Perry the ability to call a special election. To ensure Democrats don’t have one fewer Senate member when the legislative session begins on Jan. 13, Van de Putte intends to only vacate her seat once the special election’s winner is sworn in.
Republican Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick, who handedly defeated Van de Putte this month, could try to remove the chamber’s requirement that a two-thirds majority agree to bring legislation to the floor. Democrats currently hold 11 seats in the 31-member body. If Van de Putte vacates her seat before it is filled, the Democrats would be unable to block legislation if all members voted on party lines.
In the mayoral race, Van de Putte will face state Rep. Mike Villarreal, who announced his candidacy in May after Julián Castro left the office to become the U.S. secretary of housing and urban development.
Van de Putte and Villarreal are both longtime members of the Texas Legislature who have been politically intertwined since Van de Putte set her eyes on moving to the Senate after nine years as a state representative. That’s when Villarreal succeeded her in that House seat, though she backed his opponent in the race.
Van de Putte’s entry into the mayoral race has been rumored for some time. She was previously mentioned as a possible candidate for the mayor’s office. She quickly sought to quiet those rumors, saying during the summer that she would run for mayor “under no circumstance.”
“When asked some time this summer would I consider, I was so focused… on the position of lieutenant governor and winning that race that I said, ‘Absolutely not. It’s not entering in my mind’,” Van de Putte said. “I didn’t even think about it.”
After speculation about her future political ambitions resurfaced last week, Villarreal said he was expecting to pick up an opponent in the race.
“We knew this wouldn’t be a cakewalk. Running to be mayor of the seventh-largest city in the country is not a coronation, and it shouldn’t be,” Villarreal said, adding that Van de Putte reached out to him earlier this month before publicly acknowledging that she was being mentioned as a potential candidate for mayor.
Van de Putte said she hadn’t spoken with him since then, adding that his candidacy was not a factor in her decision.
With Villarreal also resigning his seat in the next legislative session, San Antonio will see two special elections to fill both of their posts. State Reps. Trey Martinez Fischer and José Menéndez both expressed interest last week in pursuing Van de Putte’s Senate seat if she were to step down. San Antonio City Councilman Diego Bernal and public relations consultant Melissa Aguillon have both set their sights on Villarreal’s seat.
ALEXA URA reports for The Texas Tribune where this story was >originally published. It is made available here through a news partnership between the Texas Tribune and the San Marcos Mercury.
COVER: State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte at a 2006 banquet hosted by the Washington-based Latino Leaders Network. PHOTO VIA FLICKREmail | Print