In a state where Democrats are trying to curb the Republican dominance in elections, and looking to the large Latino population as one key way to achieve that, there is a Latina Democrat who has a shot at winning this November.

But there’s an ironic challenge that could get in the way – many Latinos do not know that the Latina candidate for lieutenant governor shares their ethnicity because her name is Leticia Van De Putte.

Van De Putte, who is a state senator and of Mexican descent, uses her husband’s surname.

That is not to say that Van De Putte downplays her heritage. In her San Antonio district, she is referred to as the pharmacist from “el barrio,” according to the Texas Tribune.

She easily turns to Spanish in her political speeches, and is a frequent guest on Spanish-language news shows.

But all that has not parlayed itself into statewide recognition among voters, including Latinos, who, observers say, Van De Putte must excite enough to get them to turn out at the polls in November if she is to have a real shot at defeating her Republican opponent, state Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston.

A poll by Public Policy Polling showed that among Latinos, Patrick was behind Van De Putte by a mere 6 percentage points.

Political experts point to the Democratic primary race between state Sen. Wendy Davis, who is running for governor, and her opponent at the time, municipal judge Ray Madrigal, as the edge a Latino surname can provide.

Though Davis won the primary, she lost to Madrigal in areas with large Latino populations even though he raised no money for his campaign.

“That’s the benefit that Ray Madrigal had” in the race against Davis, said Sylvia Manzano, a senior analyst for the nonpartisan political polling organization Latino Decisions, according to the Tribune. “Van De Putte doesn’t come to the table with a familiar name.”

Van De Putte has said she does not want to exploit her Hispanic heritage for political gain, and will refer to it when it is appropriate.

“It’s not a conscious effort to emphasize or play up my heritage,” Van De Putte was quoted as saying in the Tribune. “It’s who I am.”

“Some people say, ‘She’s playing it up,’ but it’s just my regular day. It’s who I am,” Van De Putte said. “I’m Leticia San Miguel — Van De Putte.”

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