2:46pm January 15, 2013

Latina Takes Helm of Texas State Senate


San Antonio State Senator Leticia Van de Putte, a Democrat, was sworn in as the pro tempore of the state senate last week.

“I’m only the sixth woman to have ever served in this capacity, and the second Latina,” Van de Putte told Politic365 with elation. “I’m very honored and humbled by this, I think it sends a different picture, a visual of a Latina in the chair.”

The role allows Van de Putte to preside over the senate and assume the role of governor if both he and the lieutenant governor are out of the state. While the role is not politically powerful, she told Politic365 that being a Latina face of politics in Texas points to the changing political dynamics in the state at a time when Republicans there are struggling to be more inclusive.

Republicans in the Texas house have lost their supermajority, meaning it will be harder for them to push through legislation over Democrats’ objections. This may mean less controversial legislating in the state which saw fights erupt over Voter ID and redistricting in the last session.

The first Latina senate pro tempore was Senator Judith Zaffirini, the last Latino pro tempore was Mario Gallego and the last woman to serve in the role was Florence Shapiro in 2005. The presidents pro tempore of the senate have tended to be mostly Republican white men.

“We just haven’t had anybody wielding the gavel that is female — and certainly not a person of color,” she said. Although Van de Putte is quick to point out that, in her new role as presiding officer, she is responsible to be “fair” and said the role would not affect her legislative priorities.

And were a racially-charged bill with offensive rhetoric come to a vote, she said she would most likely not be performing leadership duties so that she could vote.

Nonetheless, she was optimistic that her ascension to this role is one of the signs that this session in the Texas legislature won’t be as anti-Latino as previous sessions. Additionally, Van de Putte said she hasn’t heard talk of “sanctuary cities” or anti-immigrant and/or anti-Latino legislation recently, and perhaps one reason is that Republicans in the state are starting to feel the negative political effects of ostracizing Latinos.

“I think that having a Latina up at the dais is a reminder of the growing demographics and opportunities that we have,” she said. “There are many people who are uncomfortable with the changing demographic, the Republican Party is grappling with it because if they are going to stay a relevant party they have to grow in the Latino population and if you have harsh harsh rhetoric, that’s not a ‘bienvenidos.’”

Van de Putte has been a champion of human trafficking legislation in the state and had to give up her position as the Democratic Caucus Chair in order to take on her new role. The senator hopes to see this decade be one in which bigotry in Texas politics begins to fade, something she’s seen anecdotally in legislation focusing not on racial groups, but on the poor, for example.

About the Author

Sara Inés Calderón
Sara Inés Calderón
Sara Inés Calderón is a journalist and writer bouncing between California and Texas.



North Carolina Governor Signs Anti-Immigrant Law

Yesterday North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed HB 318 into law. The bill prevents the state’s cities from accepting certain forms of identification and also limits access to food stamp benefits for some childless ad...
by Adriana Maestas


3 Simple Questions for the President on Immigration Before He Leaves for Vacation

BY NATIONAL DAY LABORER ORGANIZING NETWORK On Friday morning, Politico issued its top questions for the President before he leaves for vacation.   On immigration, the article asked: “Would you issue an executive order ...
by Guest Contributor


Study Suggests Praise on Housing, Stock Market Misguided

When Maryland’s longest serving Senate President, a Democrat, spoke at Maryland Lt. Governor Anthony Brown’s campaign for governor kick-off at Prince George’s County Community College on May 10, he took a moment to praise...
by Christopher Goins


RIFA immigration Website

New tech promotes old tech in immigration reform push

Reform Immigration for America (RIFA) is an organization that formed out of the last big effort to pass comprehensive immigration reform in 2007. Since, the group has had time to regroup and strategize as to the best way to put...
by Sara Inés Calderón


Georgia Lawsuit: Despite Scale-Back Immigration Enforcement Still Troubling

Section 287(g), of the Immigration and Nationality Act that deputizes police to enforce immigration laws in the course of their regular activities on the streets and inside jails via negotiated Memorandums of Agreement, has be...
by Maegan Ortiz



  1. [...] Latina Takes Helm of Texas State Senate – San Antonio State Senator Leticia Van de Putte, a Democr…      From: politic365.com [...]

  2. Finally, a 2nd Latina in power in Texas!

  3. Kenneth Davison McClintock

    Congratulations to my friend and former colleague for her ascension to this role. As a half-Texan (Dad was born in Texas City, founded by my great-grandfather, Frank Davison, in the 19th century) and a Hispanic, I’m proud that such a talented woman has become Senate President Pro Tem.


    Kenneth Davison McClintock
    22nd Secretary of State/Lt. Governor
    13th President of the Senate
    Puerto Rico

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>