Why Won't Democrats Let Legislators Create Congressional Districts to Elect Republicans?
Sharon A. Navarro. Latino Legislator: Leticia Van De Putte and the Road to Leadership. College Station, Tx.: Texas A&M University Press, 2008.
THe author notes studies indicate that most Latinos who are successful in politics are usually community leaders. They seldom enter politics through usual political recruitment paths of organized political leaders that many white politicians take.
Leticia Van de Putte was a Democratic campaign volunteer for several years before running for and winning a special election to the Texas legislature in 1999. She won her campaign by spending $56. She then became the second Latino to serve in the Texas Senate.
In 2003, Van de Putte led a 45 day walkout where Democratic Senators refused to provide a quorum for Senate business. The Democrats walked out because the Republican majority were going to approve a mid-decade Congressional redistricting that would designed to give Republicans six additional Congressional seats. This was achieved by diminishing Lation political power in districts.
Van de Putte became President of the National Council of State Legislatures. She received a national audience.
The author notes women have not been traditional successful in Texas politics. Van de Putte faced issues of her biracial marriage and how Latinos and whites perceive her. Van de Putte's political career is characteristic of paths other female politicians found where political party organizations were not supportive of her running. Van de Putte and other Latino legislators have been involved in seeking "connectedness" with ther community, often in a symbolic fashion. Her leading the walk out brought her prominence and acceptance by traditional "good ole boy" legislators. Van de Putte is seen as representing emerging Latino leaders.
Political Scientist Daniel Elazar declared that Texas has a combination of tradition (i.e elite male-oriented leaders defending the status quo) and individual (people rising in opposition to elite leaders.) politics.
The Texas legislature meets for five months in a two year session. The Governor may call a special session that is limited to 30 days. Legislators earn $7,200 a year. This creates a limitation on who is able to serve as a legislator. Most Texas legislators are from middle to upper incomes. Few are working class. The most common occupation of Texas legislators is lawyer followed by businesspeople.
In 2007, women were 1,733 of 7,382 state legislators nationally. Texas was the state with the 27th most percent of female legislators with 36 of 181 legislators being women.
Studies indicate females have generally overcome past difficulties in being seldom recruited by political elites to run or not having access t funds and resources to run. WOmen are shown still facing social and expectation barriers. Their backgrounds are more apt to to be less viable as males candidates.
Van de Putte's childhood nickname was "Chillone Berrincho" (Spanish for "crying tantrum") for her forcefulness. She was active in Young Democrats. She voiced opinions and was placed on the Airport Advisory Board after discovering the airport did not abide by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Van de Putte worked in her grandfather's pharmacy. She later bought the pharmacy. She continued her community activism and served on a Park Advisory Board. Her husband's family operated the Aloe Vera direct marketing company.
Van de Putte sought to be slated by party leaders in a special state legislature special election. She received only 3 of 20 votes from party leaders voting to choose a nominee on the first ballot. Since no candidate had a majority, balloting continued by dropping the candidate with the fewest votes. Van de Putte, while having little support as people's first choice, was the second choice of many leaders. She won the nomination. She then defeated Republican Bart Simpson and a Libertarian in the election.
In the legislature, she openly greeted a homosexual elected to the legislature who other legislators shied away from. She sold her pharmacy business to avoid further attacks on her supporting Medicaid budgets that included reimbursements to pharmacists. She gained victory in having a University of Texas campus placed in downtown San Antonio.
Van de Putte ran for a special election for State Senator. She cam e in first in the election and won a runoff since her did not win a majority in the first election. She spent $250,000 in this campaign. She became Democratic Caucus Chairman in 2003. She rose by building relations with other legislators and adapting to the legislative process.
The Texas legislature had a history of members boycotting attending in order to avoid creating a quorum to prevent legislation from being enacted. In 1993, Republicans prevented the Senate from meeting for a day to protest a plan to increase the number of racial minorities as judges. IN 1979, the Senate failed to reach a quorum when Republcians held out for separate primary dates for the Democratic and Republican primaries. Van de Putte led a group of Democratic Senators in denying the Senate a quorum. She flew them out of state to New Mexico. She led fund raising for expected litigation. The New Mexico Governor stated anyone arresting the Senators to return them to Texas would be arrested for kidnapping. A Democratic Senator broke ranks and returned to create a quorum. Bipartisan disharmony continued for some time.