Hundreds of friends, family and supporters crowded into a San Antonio College gymnasium Saturday to hear the words everyone has anticipated from State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio. Following a performance by a mariachi band that included Van de Putte's brother, and a brief introduction by daughter Nicole, a doctor, the veteran lawmaker made it official.
"Texas families deserve better than they've been getting. Texas can do better than this and that's why I announce that I'll ask the people of Texas to hire me as their next Lieutenant Governor," Van de Putte said to wild applause.
Although there was speculation the longtime senator and former House Representative would run, she took some time to make the decision partly because of several recent personal tragedies that struck her family, among them the passing of her father in an automobile accident in San Antonio, and the sudden death of her months-old grandson, Rex.
But Van de Putte repeated six words again and again during her speech that solidified for her why she should seek the most powerful position in Texas politics: "Doesn't Texas deserve better than that?" she asked several times.
The question was preceded by examples she cited as reasons why Texas should turn from its current conservative leadership.
Texas transportation needs remain unmet, she said, citing proposals to turn certain paved roads into gravel.
"As if they think that you can grow a 21st Century economy on 19th Century transportation system," she said. "Doesn't Texas deserve better than that?"
Van de Putte also talked of hyper-partisan fights on healthcare, but said Republicans don't have any ideas of their own. She placed blame on Texas GOP for turning their backs on Medicaid expansion and for leaving 65,000 veterans without affordable healthcare. The crowd booed.
Education was also a top topic.
"Texas is investing less in our school children than almost any other state," said Van de Putte. "It's by no coincidence that we're the last in the nation in the percentage of adults with a high school diploma. Don't you think Texans deserve better than that?"
And she said women are suffering under Republicans, from health care to equal pay.
"I fight to ensure that women will never again be treated the way they have been treated by our government lately."
Van de Putte used a heavier Texas drawl than her normal speaking voice, and waved, kissed the crowd with her hands and made a victory gesture with her elbows tucked in and her fists out like an experienced politician, comfortable with the stage like a rock star.
"Friends, mama's not happy. I'm not happy with how things have been going lately," she said.
"And if your family's anything like my family, when mama's not happy, ain't nobody happy."
Members of the crowd believe the fight will be tough, but not one that's impossible to win.
"The Republicans understand that they're not going to win the electorate without the Hispanic vote so they're trying to tailor their message toward that," said 22-year-old Johnathon Cruz, who holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and is an employee of the state's Attorney General's office in San Antonio. "But at the end of the day I don't think that message is going to resonate with the average Texan."
Van de Putte spoke to that point during her speech, saying that Republicans will say she and Gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, D-Ft. Worth, won't be able to win.
"[Republicans] say that little 'ole Leticia Rosa San Miguel Van de Putte from the barrio will never become Lieutenant Governor. And they'll say that even though they're going after the Hispanic vote. Well take my word for it, since I'm an actual Hispanic. You can't successfully fight for the Hispanic vote unless you're willing to fight for Hispanic families," she said.
Then she repeated herself in Spanish. "No podrán obtener nuestro voto si no están listos para luchar por nuestras familias."
Kiki Gay said Texas is so unbalanced that it's not the people's state anymore. She believes Van de Putte, and Gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, will win if people do their part to help them.
"She's [Van de Putte] the hope for women," she said. "I'm a retired school teacher, she's the hope for children, education, women," she reiterated.
On the Republican side, State Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, the state's Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, and current Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, are vying for Lieutenant Governor in the GOP primaries.