Tablet Local

Leticia Van de Putte: More must be done for veterans

One day after the deadly shooting at Fort Hood, state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte said Texas leaders need to increase efforts to take care of veterans.

“Our hearts are heavy today with the tragedy once again at Fort Hood,” said Van de Putte, a Democrat hoping to become the state’s next lieutenant governor, during a campaign stop in Fort Worth. “It just redoubles our efforts to make sure we honor the men and the women who have served in our nation’s armed forces.”

“This is so heartbreaking for any community, but for Fort Hood [especially] to experience it once again.”

Van de Putte was in town Thursday — speaking to supporters, meeting privately with the Rev. Stephen Jasso and doing interviews — as part of a nine-day statewide bus tour.

In November, the San Antonio pharmacist will face the winner of the May 27 Republican primary runoff between Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and state Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston.

She was greeted at the Nuevo Leon restaurant by dozens of supporters, and local Democratic leaders including state Reps. Lon Burnam, Nicole Collier and Chris Turner, City Councilman Sal Espino and Justice of the Peace Sergio De Leon.

“It is time we elect a Tejana again in this wonderful state that is Tejas,” Espino told the crowd as he introduced Van de Putte.

But Republicans said voters shouldn’t get too excited about Van de Putte’s bus tour.

“They are making a big deal about a ... bus tour,” said Steve Munisteri, chairman of the Republican Party of Texas. “Both our lieutenant governor candidates have been campaigning for months and months and months and have visited dozens of cities.

“A week of driving around the state isn’t going to make up for our candidates having been out there for months,” he said. “It’s more of a publicity stunt.”

Nationwide attention

Van de Putte, who heads the Senate’s Veterans Affairs & Military Installations Committee, said she and other lawmakers last year added an emergency appropriations for the National Guard to hire four new mental health counselors and the money became available in recent months.

More of that needs to be done, she said, saying it’s time to “put more money into our veterans and their families.”

A state senator since 1999, Van de Putte drew nationwide media attention for her role in last year’s filibuster in the Texas Senate, when state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, spoke for more than 11 hours trying to kill a bill geared to tighten restrictions on abortions in Texas.

As discussions appeared to be wrapping up, Van De Putte, who arrived late because she attended her father’s funeral in San Antonio, asked: “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over the male colleagues in the room?”

After she spoke, the gallery erupted in noise so loud that senators couldn’t hear one another or complete the vote before the midnight deadline. Opponents of the bill lost a few weeks later, after the Republican-led Legislature was called back for another special session and quickly approved the measure.

Van de Putte spoke kindly of Davis. “Wendy Davis is my sister in the Legislature,” she said. “I’m thankful to Fort Worth for electing her.”

‘Ain’t nobody happy’

Van de Putte also talked about the need to end the adversarial relationship the state has had with the federal government.

She said it’s time to focus on improving education, providing adequate water supplies, improving transportation and fostering Texans’ entrepreneurial spirit. She said she decided to run for lieutenant governor because she wasn’t happy with the way the state is being run.

“When Mama’s not happy, ain’t nobody happy,” she said, quoting the well-known phrase. “But if Grandma ain’t happy — run.

“And so I am, for lieutenant governor.”