During a Spanish-language town hall on Friday, state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, advocated for a higher minimum wage in Texas.
“We know that people who live off of minimum wage live a poverty-ridden life,” Van de Putte said. “Raising the minimum wage is good for the economy.”
Van de Putte’s remarks come a week after Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis called for pushing the minimum wage in Texas to $10 per hour. In her remarks, Van de Putte said she was unsure whether increasing the minimum wage to $10 an hour from the current requirement of $7.25 per hour was the necessary hike, but she indicated that the Texas Legislature should raise the rate.
Her campaign had hoped the town hall event would be a debate with her Republican opponent, state Sen. Dan Patrick. But Patrick “respectfully declined” to participate in the event, according to event organizers. During the hour, she answered questions from three panelists, from a studio audience, and some asked via social media.
Asked for a response to Van de Putte’s comments about increasing the minimum wage, a Patrick spokesman said “Senator Patrick is looking forward to debating his opponent on Sept. 29” when the two candidates are set to face off in an hourlong debate that will be hosted by The Texas Tribune, Austin’s KLRU-TV and Univision. That is the only debate currently scheduled in this race between now and Election Day in November. Van de Putte had originally proposed five debates between the candidates.
Van de Putte slightly stumbled on her words at times during the hourlong town hall, which was livestreamed in Spanish on Univision San Antonio’s website. But she hit Patrick on issues including immigration, abortion and the Affordable Care Act, attempting to reach out to Hispanic voters whose turnout could be crucial to her electoral success.
"I'm frustrated like thousands of others," Van de Putte said about the lack of action by President Obama and Congress on immigration reform.
She criticized Patrick’s Republican primary description of the influx of undocumented immigrants from Mexico as an “illegal invasion,” calling it disrespectful to Hispanics in the state.
And she also defended Davis’ two terminated pregnancies, which the gubernatorial candidate wrote about in a memoir published this week. Van de Putte dismissed the idea that voters would be turned off by the revelations, saying they were personal decisions that were made for medical reasons.
If elected lieutenant governor, Van de Putte would lead a Senate that is overwhelmingly Republican. But on Friday she said she would work with conservatives to increase funding to women’s health programs to help prevent the need for abortion instead of further restricting access to the procedure.
Patrick emphatically opposes abortion and has been a loud advocate for the strict abortion regulations lawmakers have enacted in recent years. He sponsored the legislation that led to the state’s requirement that doctors perform a sonogram on a woman at least 24 hours before she has an abortion.
Van de Putte also called for finding a state-specific solution to expanding Medicaid to cover poor, uninsured adults under the federal Affordable Care Act. Since the federal health law was passed in 2010, Texas Republicans, including Patrick, have strongly opposed an expansion, saying Medicaid must be reformed before it is expanded.
“We can find a Texas Solution,” Van de Putte said during the town hall. “Other states with Republican-led Legislatures have done it.”
The event recorded on Friday evening was set to air on Univision San Antonio stations on Friday at 10 p.m., and in Houston, Dallas and Austin “at a later date,” according to organizers.