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Dismissing Patrick's Promise To Stump For Minority Votes, Van de Putte Tees Up For Fight

Jennifer Whitney/Bob Daemmrich
Texas Tribune
Democrat Leticia Van de Putte faces Republican Dan Patrick in the lieutenant governor's race.

Leticia Van de Putte, the Democrat facing the newly-nominated Republican Dan Patrick in the lieutenant governor race, said Wednesday that his pledge to meet with minority voters comes after “insulting” them.

  After trouncing three-term lieutenant governor David Dewhurst to win the GOP nomination, Patrick referenced comments made by Democrats who’ve said his views are so extreme he would be their “meal ticket” to winning the lieutenant governor’s seat in November.

“Some Democrats have said they wanted me to be the nominee. Well they got me and I’m coming,” Patrick said to a round of applause at his victory party.

Patrick told supporters he plans to campaign in minority communities that traditionally vote for Democrats.

“We are going to go into Hispanic communities and African-American communities all across this state during this race.  Because, No. 1, before you can get someone’s vote you have to respect them enough to go talk with them and explain who you are,” Patrick said.

Van de Putte charged Wednesday that Patrick has been campaigning for over a year but until now has spent little time meeting with minority voters.

“I wonder where he’s been,” Van de Putte said.

“To hear that he’s now going to go into Latino communities, well good luck. Because you’ve just spent the last six months insulting them,” she said.

Van de Putte described Patrick’s approach to border security as “toxic.”  He often links drug crimes and human trafficking to illegal immigration and has called for deploying more law enforcement to secure the border.

Patrick has said many Hispanic groups don't object to that message because they want to rid their neighborhoods of crime.

What really gets Van de Putte going is Patrick’s promise to repeal a law that provides in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants who grew up here. She sponsored that legislation, known as the Texas Dream Act.

“These children have graduated from Texas schools. It’s smart to have them pay the same amount (for tuition) as the folks they graduated with. It’s been working since 2001,”she said, adding the Texas Association of Business and Gov. Rick Perry backed the legislation.

Patrick has said Texas’ limited means should be used to support students who are here legally.

So as his victory celebration winds down, the next battleground is taking shape.

“I’m ready and excited,” Van de Putte said.

She says having six children and six grandchildren has prepared her for whatever curveballs the campaign or candidate throws at her.

Former KERA staffer Shelley Kofler was news director, managing editor and senior reporter. She is an award-winning reporter and television producer who previously served as the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.