Editor’s Note: Early voting for the Nov. 4 election begins Oct. 20 and ends Oct. 31.
The lieutenant governor of Texas has often been hailed as the most powerful official in the Texas Legislature. With nearly despotic powers over the Texas Senate, the lieutenant governor controls the agendas, the composition of committees and the general demeanor of the chamber. These duties, however, are not guaranteed by the state constitution; instead, they only occur with the consent of the state senators themselves. If so organized, a majority of 16 could vote at the beginning of a session to strip the lieutenant governor of all power beyond breaking ties if so inclined. Thus, with the incumbent lieutenant governor David Dewhurst being replaced after a dozen years in office, it is important to find a replacement willing to get along with other senators and continue the delicate agreement.
State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, the Republican candidate for the post, is not that person. A demagogue willing to take on extreme positions, he prioritizes divisive social issues over real solutions to solve the complex problems that Texas currently faces. Instead of coming up with a plan to make our roads and highways the envy of the world once more, Patrick merely quips in broad platitudes about “securing the border,” using dangerous scare tactics, such as equating undocumented immigrants with disease-carrying invaders. On Oct. 8, he claimed that ISIS was crossing the border with Mexico en masse. Such an assertion, of course, is patently absurd. Last session, when the Legislature was debating how best to restore austerity cuts to education earlier inflicted, Patrick talked out of both sides of his mouth too often to keep track. Despite campaigning for the restoration in front of cameras, he ultimately voted against the budget in order to save his reputation among arch-conservatives. An advocate of school choice, Patrick believes that funding public schools is futile because of their underperformance. Still, he continues to claim that he was a leading advocate for the restoration, a charge that earned him a “pants on fire” rating from Politifact.
State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio and the Democratic candidate, is the polar opposite. Though she can also be fiery and partisan in front of television cameras, she has a proven track record of working behind-the-scenes with legislators of both parties to implement common-sense goals. Be it education, transportation or budget affairs, Van de Putte is not merely content submitting a sound bite; rather, she wants to actually do what is right.
Further, while the phrase “reaching across the aisle” is ubiquitous in clichés of politics, no such aisle exists in the Texas Senate. The senators simply all sit together. The seating is representative of a larger principle of nonpartisanship in the body, best enforced by a rule compelling legislation to stay off the floor unless two-thirds of lawmakers assent to its consideration. The rule, which dates back to the days when Democrats controlled all 31 senate seats, is designed to foster consensus, not facilitate gridlock. Patrick wants to do away with the rule, or lower the threshold to 60 percent, which is conspicuously just below the portion of the chamber that Republicans control; Van de Putte wants to retain the threshold. Without the rule, the Texas Senate will descend into partisan bickering, a cacophony indistinguishable from the mess in Washington.
At its core, that is what this race is about. Van de Putte represents the Texas values of old. Patrick, on the other hand, is just more of the same grandstanding ever-present in the Capitol and sadly rearing its ugly head more and more often in Texas. Let’s keep the state strong and restore it to its earlier successes. Vote for Van de Putte.