The first-ever female ticket for Texas governor and lieutenant governor — Democratic state Sens. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth and Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio — couldn’t win the Nov. 4 election.
They couldn’t buck Texas’ Republican habit of the past two decades. But both are obviously staying active in politics.
Van de Putte will run for mayor of San Antonio, to succeed Julian Castro, appointed by President Barack Obama as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
The personable pharmacist is a familiar figure around the Texas capitol — she spent 14 years in the Senate following nine in the Texas House.
She is, of course, still a senator — for now. She drew a four-year term in 2011 following redistricting and thus did not have to sacrifice her Senate job in 2014 to run for lieutenant governor.
Van de Putte, in announcing her mayoral campaign last week, said she loves the Senate and was prepared to stay. But she began to get a lot of phone calls.
“I was ready for the new challenges and ready to work with our new lieutenant governor and my colleagues just like I always have,” she told reporters. “I’m going to terribly miss that, but I’m answering the call and the outcry to come home and to continue my public service in the city of San Antonio.”
Faced with being one of just 11 Democrats in a 31-member Senate presided over by Dan Patrick, the far-right Republican senator who beat her for lieutenant governor, she made what seemed an obvious choice to run instead to be mayor of her home city, where she is quite popular.
Van de Putte said she’ll continue to serve as a senator until a successor is elected and sworn in, to avoid diluting the Democratic minority even further.
She acknowledged that she had earlier said she wouldn’t run for mayor.
“When asked sometime this summer would I consider, I was so focused … on the position of lieutenant governor and winning that race that I said, ‘Absolutely not. It’s not entering in my mind,’ ” she said. “I didn’t even think about it.”
She’s not the only San Antonio legislator running. State Rep. Mike Villarreal, who had replaced her in the House after she won her senate seat in 1999, has been running since May.
Villarreal said he never expected “a cakewalk” in seeking to become mayor of the nation’s seventh-largest city.
Re-elected on Nov. 4, he plans to resign his new term immediately after the legislature convenes on Jan. 13.
San Antonio State Reps. Trey Martinez Fischer and Jose Menendez have said they’ll seek Van de Putte’s Senate seat. Since it will be a special election, they don’t have to relinquish their House seats to run.
As for the special election to fill Villarreal’s House seat, San Antonio City Council member Diego Bernal and public relations consultant Melissa Aguillon have said they’ll run.
Davis does not have the luxury of being able to continue as a senator. She had drawn a two-year term for the 2012 election and so had to relinquish her senate seat to run for governor.
But two weeks after the election, Davis e-mailed subscribers to her gubernatorial campaign, pushing “Ready for Hillary,” the effort to draft Hillary Clinton to run for president in 2016.
The group “just announced a huge online organizing goal to find 100,000 new grassroots supporters who are ready to see Hillary get into this race — and help her, when and if she does,” Davis wrote.
The draft effort for the former First Lady, New York senator, and secretary of state “started nearly two years ago with just two volunteers and a post office box,” Davis said. “Today, Ready for Hillary is more than three million Americans strong, and this grassroots network continues to build every minute of the day.”
Davis said she was grateful for Clinton’s support in her governor’s race and that she has already signed the Ready for Hillary pledge.
Veteran Texas political journalist Dave McNeely can be reached at email@example.com.