The lieutenant governor holds the second-highest office in the state, but arguably — since the person in that position also serves as president of the Texas Senate — is the state’s most powerful elected official.
Two state senators with opposing political views and philosophies on most issues are vying to replace outgoing Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, a three-term incumbent from Houston who, along with two other challengers, was defeated by Sen. Dan Patrick in the Republican primary.
The key to the race is which of the candidates has the legislative experience and a history of level-headed leadership to guide the Senate, allowing each of its elected members to fairly participate in policy debates.
Patrick, a former radio talk show host in Houston, has been a polarizing presence since he joined the Senate in 2007. He defeated Dewhurst by appealing to the most conservative wing of the GOP and avid Tea Party supporters.
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His Democratic opponent is a San Antonio native and practicing pharmacist, state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, who has served more than two decades in the Legislature.
Van de Putte is better suited to be lieutenant governor.
Patrick could very well be running for Texas secretary of defense, if there were such an office, since his emphasis in the campaign is to “defend” his fellow Texans — against threats on the border and in sanctuary cities; dangers on college campuses due to guns being banned there; intrusions from Washington, D.C., particularly by President Barack Obama; and those who threaten “life and traditional marriage.”
He says his top priority will be to protect the state’s southern border, which he insists is being overrun not only by illegal immigrants from Mexico and Central America and by vicious drug cartels, but also by Islamic State terrorists who “threaten to cross our border and kill Americans.”
Van de Putte, who proclaims herself a “pro-business Democrat,” describes her opponent as practicing the “politics of fear.”
A mother of six with six grandchildren, Van de Putte criticizes Patrick for wanting to increase the state sales tax as a way to bring down property taxes, and for voting against more funding for public schools while advocating state-supported vouchers for private schools.
“Where Dan Patrick sees our schools and students as an expense, I see them as an investment,” she told the Star-Telegram Editorial Board.
On the issue of border control, Van de Putte and Patrick agree on the need. But they disagree on how to go about providing security along the Rio Grande between Texas and Mexico. Patrick proudly embraces Gov. Rick Perry’s decision to send National Guard troops to the border at a cost of $12 million a month.
Van de Putte says she would have listened to local officials who don’t want the troops on the border because National Guard personnel don’t have the law enforcement power to arrest or detain, and such a military presence is hurting the Rio Grande Valley economy because it negatively affects tourism.
Legislatively, Patrick touts passage of his bill requiring sonograms for women seeking abortions. He also cites a $172 million tax cut for small businesses.
His website includes among the legislation of which he is most proud a bill that placed “In God We Trust” permanently in the Senate chamber, and one that inserted “Under God” in the state pledge.
Van de Putte has a reputation for working across the aisle and pledges she will continue to do so if she is elected as lieutenant governor. She insists that she would appoint both Republicans and Democrats as chairs of committees, an idea Patrick firmly rejects.
“My management style is collaborative, not bullying,” Van de Putte said.
Texas deserves a strong, reasoned, hardworking and fair individual serving in this top administrative and legislative position.
The Star-Telegram Editorial Board recommends Leticia Van de Putte for lieutenant governor.