MISSION, RGV – Mission Mayor Norberto ‘Beto’ Salinas, who usually backs Republicans in statewide races, says he is endorsing Democrat Leticia Van de Putte for lieutenant governor.

Salinas met privately with Van de Putte, a state senator from San Antonio, for 45 minutes at his real estate office in Mission on Friday afternoon. News of the endorsement was first revealed by veteran TV broadcaster Ron Whitlock, who happened to be at Salinas’ office at the time.

“Leticia asked me to support her earlier this year but at that time I was supporting David Dewhurst,” Salinas told the Guardian, in a telephone interview on Friday evening. Dewhurst, the sitting lieutenant governor, was defeated in the Republican primary by state Sen. Dan Patrick, a Republican from Houston.

“I like what Senator Van de Putte has done in the Senate. She is very experienced. She is pro-business, she is a big supporter of international trade with Mexico and is pro-veteran. I think she would make a very good lieutenant governor,” Salinas said.

Mission Mayor Norberto 'Beto' Salinas and state Senator Leticia Van de Putte met at the mayor's real estate office in Mission on Friday. (Photo courtesy of Ron Whitlock Reports)
Mission Mayor Norberto ‘Beto’ Salinas and state Senator Leticia Van de Putte met at the mayor’s real estate office in Mission on Friday. (Photo courtesy of Ron Whitlock Reports)

In his younger days Salinas was a Democrat and ran on the Democratic ticket for Hidalgo County Commissioner. However, during his long reign as mayor he was become increasingly identified with the GOP, supporting leading Texas Republicans such as George W. Bush, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Rick Perry and John Cornyn. Salinas is a good friend of Gov. Perry and has been appointed to statewide boards by him. He has enthusiastically endorsed Republican Greg Abbott, the current attorney general, in his gubernatorial bid against Democrat Wendy Davis.

“I am supporting Abbott and will have an event for him here in October. But, the lieutenant governor’s race is different,” Salinas said. “Most of my friends are her (Van de Putte’s) friends. I think she has good chance of winning. I really don’t know Mr. Patrick. He might have a good chance of winning but I have to go with my instincts and I know Leticia is a very moderate Democrat. She has always understood the need to work with Republicans and has always understood my position in supporting Republicans. I think she will be a lieutenant governor for all Texans.”

Other Valley Republicans that have endorsed Van de Putte, such as international bridge owner Sam Vale, have blasted Patrick over what they believe was inflammatory remarks about immigrants and Mexico during the Republican primary. Salinas said he was not going to criticize Patrick.

“I do not want to make any comments on him. Some of my friends are supporting him. I just think Senator Van de Putte has a very good chance. She is a hard worker. She is working very hard. She is for Texas. She is doing this because she really wants to do good for Texas,” Salinas said.

Salinas added that he would likely hold a fundraiser for Van de Putte at his home in Mission later in the campaign.

Van de Putte is on a two-day swing through the Valley. In addition to meeting with Salinas, on Friday she spoke at a Texas Lyceum conference at the McAllen Convention Center and held an evening campaign event in Rio Grande City. Today she is due to speak at a campaign event in Mission. Salinas said he would not be attending because he was not aware of it. Van de Putte is expected to hold a news event to announce a raft of endorsements from Valley mayors in the coming weeks.

Patrick was also in the Valley on Friday. He too spoke at the Texas Lyceum event but his “fireside chat” was at a ranch north of Edinburg and was only for Lyceum board members. At lunchtime on Friday, Pharr City Commissioner Jimmy Garza held a fundraiser for Patrick at the McAllen Country Club. The Guardian spoke with Patrick after this event but before the Salinas endorsement of Van de Putte was known.

Asked about Valley Republicans endorsing Van de Putte, Patrick said: “You never get 100 percent, even in your own party but we will be in the very high 90s, statewide. I actually believe we will end up getting more conservative Democrats to cross over than she will get Republicans, by far.”

Patrick said he liked Van de Putte as a person but said her policies would be wrong for Texas.

“Leticia is very smart, very nice. I like her on a personal level. We are friends, I would say. I hope she would consider me a friend. I consider her a friend. We have sat next to each other on the Senate floor. She is just wrong on her positions,” Patrick said.

“Conservative Democrats are pro-life. She voted against the Sonogram bill, she voted against the pro-life bill this past session. Many Valley Democrats didn’t vote for Wendy Davis in her primary because of that issue. Leticia was on the Senate floor cheering Wendy on.”

Patrick also said Van de Putte was not pro-business. “We have the endorsements of almost every major business organization in the state. She voted against tort reform. She voted for the business franchise tax and the wage tax that were not pro-business. I like her a lot she is just 180 degrees opposite me on the issues. The issues I support will help attract a lot of conservative Democrats, not just in the Valley but statewide.”