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Rivals Take Aim At Van De Putte, The Perceived Frontrunner For Mayor

Shelley Kofler
Texas Public Radio

  With less than three weeks to early voting, San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor is increasingly taking aim at the perceived front-runner who’s competing to unseat her in the May 9 election.

Taylor  has joined other mayoral candidates in attacking Former State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte for transferring $300,000 from her state campaign accounts to her mayoral war chest, and with delaying a police contract agreement.

Taylor initially chose not to join the fray when mayoral rivals Mike Villarreal and Tommy Adkisson claimed Van de Putte had violated city policies by moving too much of her state campaign money to her mayor’s account.

But Wednesday Taylor decided to jump in.  She sent out a fundraising letter claiming Van de Putte’s money transfer demonstrated a “willingness to bend the rules and poor decision making.”

Van de Putte has said she broke no laws.  She told Texas Public Radio she decided to return an estimated $150,000 to her state fund because she wants there to be no questions of impropriety.  

“It wasn’t because they called me out on it.  It was because it was the right thing to do.  When there is any hint- it just goes to show you I’m the type of leader who listens.  And when there’s any hint of anything, I’m going to go to the extreme to make sure,“ Van de Putte said.

During a Tuesday debate sponsored by the San Antonio Nonprofit Council, Taylor and Villarreal also tried to discredit Van de Putte on another contentious issue – her endorsement by the police union.   Villarreal claimed the former senator got the endorsement because she agreed to have the City drop its legal challenge to the so-called “evergreen clause” in the police union contract.  The clause keeps generous contract terms in place for 10 years after the contract expires. 

“The role of the mayor is not to pick a side,” Villarreal told the debate audience.  “It’s to advance the agenda of public safety and financial sustainability in the entire city’s interest.”

Taylor joined in with what may be her harshest criticism yet of Van de Putte. She said that when the police endorsed Van de Putte they stopped negotiating and that will delay a contract agreement.

“I have worked to keep it out of the political arena,” said Taylor.  “However, it has been kicked squarely back into the political arena and I want you to think about whether you want leadership that’s focused on self-interest or leadership focused on community interest.”

Van de Putte’s campaign says the claims are just efforts to knock a frontrunner down a few notches.  But the accusations have forced her to go on the defensive.

“I haven’t promised anything except to get this deal done in the parameters that we can and make sure that we treat people with respect.  That’s it,” she said during the debate.

With a total of 14 candidates running for mayor, the May 9 election is expected to reduce the field to a runoff between the two candidates who capture the most votes. 

Shelley Kofler is Texas Public Radio’s news director. She joined the San Antonio station in December 2014 and leads a growing staff that produces two weekly programs; a daily talk show, news features, reports and online content. Prior to TPR, Shelley served as the managing editor and news director at KERA in Dallas-Fort Worth, and the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.