San Antonio senator steps out of gubernatorial primaries, touts Austinite's candidacy
By Richard Whittaker,
2:30PM, Tue. Jun. 23, 2009
With all the attention centering on the Republican gubernatorial primary punch-up between Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, the Democratic Party's own nomination fight has slipped into the background. Now Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, has kicked it into high gear by saying she won't run, but that she thinks Austin's own Sen. Kirk Watson should.
There had been lots of rumors that she was eying a higher office ("Which started with nothing more than me not immediately saying 'no,'" she noted), and Van de Putte confirmed that she'd definitely been mulling it over. In her press release, Van de Putte said that while she wants to see both Republican front-runners out of office, she doesn't want to see her family caught up in an ugly statewide election. She even gets in a not-so-subtle dig by adding that the fact that "I am a Latina would only serve to amplify their attacks."
So why make the one-term senator from Austin her choice to step into the breach that was never technically filled?
She calls him a "bipartisan pragmatic leader solidly focused on addressing the priorities of all Texans."
Watson quickly issued a "neither confirm nor deny"-style response, saying that, while he was "very flattered by Senator Van de Putte’s confidence in me," he had made no decisions. That said, he "[intends] to give this issue serious consideration" and would make no announcement until after the special session or more probably late Summer.
Handicapping that race could be hard: After all, the conventional wisdom is that the GOP has a lock on governor. That said, Dems have made no secret of their thoughts: If it has to be a Republican, Hutchison seems the more tolerable tenant on the mansion, but Perry would be easier to dislodge. If Watson did run, he'd get savaged as an Austin Demmycrat libemeral. However, as a big-city mayor turned successful state senator, he's got an impressive resume to bring to the table.
Here's Van de Putte's initial press release:
"Five months of speculation regarding the possibility of me running for Governor has, quite frankly, been surprising. It started with nothing more than me not immediately saying 'no,' unlike in past election cycles, when asked if I would consider such a run. The reactions of thousands of Texans who encouraged me to give it serious consideration has been flattering.
"I have, indeed, given it very serious thought, and while I would love to believe, tongue firmly planted in cheek, that this pent-up desire on the part of so many Texans for me to run for governor is solely because of some perceived superior leadership ability and vast intellect of mine, I have to reluctantly admit that it's not as much about me as it is about Republican failures.
"This is about Texas' stunning lack of current leadership. Large and growing numbers feel betrayed by the Republicans they voted into statewide office, and who can blame them? While Texas families remain concerned about genuine priority issues, Republicans led by Rick Perry continue to instead obsess about hyper-partisan issues, in order to grab more power for themselves.
"Texans still pay the highest homeowners insurance premiums in the country. Texas still has the highest percentage in the country of those without access to health care. Texas still has the second highest rate of teen pregnancy in the nation, and the highest rate of teens with a second pregnancy. And after years of Republican 'leadership,' not only has Rick Perry failed to address these challenges, but he and his minions have done everything they can to avoid addressing them in any meaningful way. Rick Perry, Kay Bailey Hutchison, and others in the Republican leadership have turned their backs on 25 million Texans, instead opting to curry favor with a handful of fringe Republican primary voters.
"If I believed for a second that it would result in a healthy debate of the issues of most importance to Texas families, I would today be announcing my candidacy for Governor of Texas. But we have all watched over the years as Perry, Hutchison, and other Republican politicians have launched their scorched earth 'say anything to win' vicious attacks against political opponents. To mask their utter lack of leadership, they'll do so again, and I decline to put my family through it. That I am a Latina would only serve to amplify their attacks.
"I will gladly work hard to ensure that a Democrat prevails in the election for Governor, so that Texas families can have a better shot at having a state government focused on the needs of Texans, instead of state Republican leadership obsessed with their own political futures, at Texans' expense.
"Prominent Democrats must put personal ambitions aside and very pragmatically nominate the person best equipped to win in November. Just because one can win the Democratic nomination for Governor doesn't mean one should, unless he or she is best positioned to defeat the Republican nominee in the fall.
"That's why I think Senator Kirk Watson should raise his sights and run for Governor. I've watched as Senator Watson has emerged as a leader in the state Senate on the issues of most importance to Texans. While staying true to Democratic values, he is a bipartisan pragmatic leader solidly focused on addressing the priorities of all Texans. I intend to lobby Senator Watson to run for governor, and I'll wholeheartedly support him if he does. But if he declines, Democrats should recruit and support someone who, like Watson, is energetic, pragmatic, focused, and smart; and who can fully energize Democratic supporters while also attracting a broad range of independent voters in every region of the state.
And here's Watson's response:I am very flattered by Senator Van de Putte’s confidence in me, and I strongly agree with her about the need for improved leadership in Texas.
I have a job I enjoy greatly, which is representing the citizens of Senate District 14. Over the next several weeks, I will evaluate the role I intend to play in serving Texas after 2010. That service may include running for and serving in another office or running for reelection. I intend to give this issue serious consideration, and I do not anticipate making any decisions in this regard until at least sometime after the end of the anticipated special session of the legislature, and probably not until the end of the summer.