by Mary Tuma
(Left to Right:) Mayor Julian Castro, County Judge Nelson Wolff and Leticia Van de Putte. Photo by Mary Tuma
“We didn’t look for this battle, but if someone comes knocking on my door looking for a fight, they’re going to find me at home and they’re going to find my friends with me,” said Wolff, echoing sentiments from his January campaign kick-off event. “It was a test that brought us closer together to help us fight the good fight that we’ll see in November.”
“We will win by expressing the Democratic Party’s core values of expanding health care, immigration reform, enhancing public education, fiscal responsibility and respecting the dignity of each human regardless of ethnicity, cultural background or sexual orientation,” said Wolff, who recently helped expand benefits to domestic partners of County employees.
Mi Tierra brimmed with excitement as early vote totals came rolling in— the Wolff campaign called it before 10 p.m. with 56.9 percent of the vote over Adkisson’s 43 percent. The packed house of supporters included state Rep. Mike Villarreal (D-San Antonio), council members Ray Lopez of District 6 and Ron Nirenberg of District 8 and Precinct 1 County Commissioner Chico Rodriguez.*
Wolff beat out Adkisson in the campaign finance ring too, ending with $175,600 in contributions as of Feb. 24 (the most recent campaign finance reporting period) to his old pal’s $14,553, filing records show.
Appointed to the judgeship in 2001, Wolff was elected to the post three consecutive times. Before becoming judge, he served as a former Texas state representative, state Senator and former mayor of San Antonio. Uncontested in the 2010 primary, Wolff cruised to victory with 80 percent of the vote against Libertarian challenger, Stephen Mayer, in the November general election.
But it’s his stranglehold on the seat that drew censure from Adkisson, who says Wolff has overstayed his welcome. (“The public is ready for a change and I think I’ve served them very well [as Commissioner]. And I’m closer to 63 than 73,” Adkisson told the Current in December.)
Wolff also attracted criticism from opponents for funding “wasteful legacy projects” that are said to divert resources away from basic public safety and infrastructure. But he turned those critiques around, using them as a point of pride. He’s referred to Bibliotech, the nation’s first all-digital public library, building a regional flood control system, ecological restoration of the San Antonio River Mission Reach, backing performing arts and sports facilities and support for the $280-$400 million proposed streetcar plan as evidence he’s invested in the City’s future. During his primary re-election speech, Wolff stressed supporting Bibliotech, Pre-K4SA, health care expansion and job creation.
Now, the County Judge heads into the general election against Republican challenger, former SA City council member Carlton Soules this November.
During the downtown campaign primary event, Wolff and Van de Putte shared in celebration, forming a mutual admiration society with endorsements of one another at the podium. (Wolff on Van de Putte: She’s “smart, she knows how to reach across the aisle and bring consensus.” Van de Putte on Wolff: “I am so thankful of the leadership right here in my hometown.”)
(Left to Right:) County Judge Nelson Wolff, Leticia Van de Putte and Mayor Julian Castro. Photo by Mary Tuma
In her own speech earlier in the evening, Van de Putte, who ran uncontested in her Democratic primary for lieutenant governor, said she was enthused by the level of support for her campaign and hopes her pro-business, centrist views attract moderates this November.
“As I travel the state you really see so much energy and excitement for this race,” said Van de Putte. “And I am thankful today to go one more step forward through the primary season.”
Van de Putte now faces either incumbent lieutenant governor David Dewhurst (23 percent of the vote as of now) or state Sen. Dan Patrick (43 percent), who head into a likely runoff. The Republican primary lite gov race has been marked with ideological extremism and criticism from Dems and advocacy groups for hurtling inflammatory remarks and “toxic rhetoric," especially in regard to the border community and immigration.
“If you’ve listened to any of the four Republican candidates running for lieutenant governor, they all basically sound the same and they’re on a cliff,” said Van de Putte. “While I’m talking about education, roads and water, they want to use harmful language and use politics of fear to drive wedges among people.”
Van de Putte pointed to GOP lite guv rhetoric like the use of the term, “illegal invasion” and describing the Texas-Mexico border as a “war zone.”
“They have not learned the lessons of Pete Wilson’s California, they haven’t learned the lessons of Jan Brewer’s Arizona,” she said. “When we talk about people who live on the border in such hurtful terms, it costs us jobs.”
Castro— who sees a continual challenge from Patrick for a debate on immigration in San Antonio— expressed similar concerns.
“He is the Pete Wilson of Texas, he makes no bones about being anti-immigrant. So they’ll definitely be a good contrast of ideas [in the general election],” Castro told the Current at the campaign event. “The Republican Party has gotten so extreme that a man like Dan Patrick is right up the GOP’s alley these days.”
*The San Antonio Four also made a surprise appearance at the tail-end of the celebration, although the women were just looking for an after-hours restaurant after attending a documentary screening about their story and weren’t aware of the political event. Nonetheless, Van de Putte embraced the four women, who were recently released for crimes they say they did not commit.