EL PASO — State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, brought her multicity bus tour to Far West Texas on Tuesday, hurling criticism at the state’s Republican leadership for “disrespecting” border communities while touting her Mexican heritage.
She also took aim at state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, her possible general election opponent, for what she said were votes against a budget that included programs designed to help Texas veterans.
Van de Putte, the chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs and Military Installations, hosted a roundtable at the city's Opportunity Center for the Homeless. She and stakeholders discussed veterans courts and funding for treatment and shelters. She said veterans’ issues typically had the support of Gov. Rick Perry, himself a veteran. But when she introduced herself to local Spanish language media, she said the GOP had better change its tune on other matters.
“They say that this city and the entire border with Mexico is a war zone, that this is a third-world city. That’s not so,” she said in Spanish, after referring to herself as Leticia San Miguel Van De Putte. “That’s a lack of respect.”
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The senator from San Antonio twice made lighthearted comments about her last name, saying that Latinos — a highly coveted voting block by both parties — would ask “Who is this woman? What kind of a name is that?” But it is also a sign that Van de Putte is likely to continue ensuring voters she is of Mexican descent. Her grandmothers, she said, came from the Mexican states of Coahuila and Guadalajara.
When asked to separate herself from Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Patrick, who face off in a May runoff election, she only singled out Patrick.
“Sometimes they talk the talk, but the priorities aren’t there. For us, the priorities are for veterans and for their families,” she said. “It’s one thing to support veterans, and another thing to vote no on the budget like Sen. Patrick did.”
The budget, she said, would have added an additional $4 million for peer-to-peer programs and funded an additional eight mental health counselors for veterans.