The Battle for Texas: An Anniversary

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This is Part 2 in a series about the 2014 Texas gubernatorial race, The Battle for Texas. Read “Part 1: Meet the Democrats” here.

Yesterday marked three months until Election Day 2014 in the United States, and in Texas that means a very important race: the gubernatorial race between Democratic darling state Senator Wendy Davis and her Republican opponent, current Attorney General Greg Abbott. The Texas Democratic Party has never been more energized, and as both campaigns are preparing to go into full swing coupled with the national attention on Texas politics for the first time in a long time, the 2014 race could never be bigger.

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This past month, I had the opportunity to see Texas politics up close and personal. From June 26 to July 16, I attended the University of Texas National Institute of Forensics (UTNIF), a three week debate camp in the heart of Austin. While it wasn’t explicitly related to politics—although all of us stayed in touch with big political events, especially the disappointing Hobby Lobby Supreme Court ruling—my journey in Texas politics officially began around the same time UTNIF started.

The Filibuster Anniversary

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June 25, 2014 officially marked the one-year of anniversary of Wendy Davis’ epic filibuster, where she stood for eleven hours to stop a draconian anti-abortion bill that would eventually pass the next day. While Democrats may have won the first abortion battle, they lost the abortion war; however, it catapulted Wendy Davis into the national spotlight and allowed her and Leticia Van de Putte’s bids for governor and lieutenant governor to become a reality.

To celebrate the historic filibuster, the Texas Democrats held a big anniversary event in Austin, Texas at the Palmer Convention Center—conveniently within walking distance of the hotel I’d be staying at on the same night I’d be getting into Austin. There’s no way I could miss it.

IMG_2709When I showed up that evening with my mom, we were able to get free tickets at the door. Making our way through the winding halls of the convention center, we got stopped a few times—one time was for me to give my reasons to a camera on why I support Wendy Davis (I mentioned her education filibuster to attempt to stop $5.4 billion of cuts to Texas public educations) and the second time was to write down our information on the back of the ticket in order to enter further to where all the fun was happening.

What I didn’t realize was that ticket—the one where I marked that I would be a “young voter” (although only for the presidential election, not the midterms)—would be the start of my relationship with the Wendy Davis campaign.

Unsure of where to go next, my mom turned into a large convention room filled with people—the room Wendy Davis, Leticia Van de Putte, and a host of others would be speaking.

As it turned out, we didn’t belong in that room. It was only for people who had donated a certain amount of money (I believe it was $20 but I’m not sure), not for people like me who had just gotten the free tickets. A man behind us noticed our mistake and quickly told us, “Put away your tickets.” My mom and I, both confused, questioned him, asking him why, only to get an explanation that no, we didn’t belong there but if we put away our tickets so no one would see it, he wouldn’t tell on us. 🙂

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Some of the more prominent speakers included Kirk Watson, former mayor of Austin and current Texas state senator, and Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood and daughter of the last Democratic governor of Texas: Anne Richards.

But it didn’t take very long for Leticia Van de Putte, the state senator from San Antonio running for lieutenant governor against Tea Party opponent Dan Patrick, to come out and steal the show with a powerful address, bringing us back to her experience on the floor of the Texas Capitol on that fateful night a year ago. Her father had passed away so she didn’t originally plan on coming to the filibuster, but as she turned on the news to see Wendy Davis had already received two points of order (three kills a filibuster under Texas filibuster rules) for having help putting on a back brace and mentioning Planned Parenthood’s budget, she decided that her dad would’ve wanted her to go do her job and she hoped that she could provide some support to an exhausted Wendy Davis.

After her speech came Wendy Davis herself, the woman the whole night revolved around. Wendy Davis was able to inject some energy into the crowd, one that had largely been following her since the night of the filibuster and experienced all the campaign ups and downs—from when her personal story was viciously attacked despite the discrepancies (if you can call them that) being so minuscule to one poll that put her within only 7 points of her opponent and another poll soon after that put her down by about 14.

And it worked. By the end, the crowd was energetic, excited, and ready for action.

For me I think the real treat of the night was the fact that I was so incredibly close to people I admired so very much, and I was even able to get my shirt signed by the two women at the top of the ticket!

That day was important so many reasons—one of which was invigorating a beleaguered political party that, despite controlling the White House, couldn’t win a single statewide office for 20 years. The Texas Democrats have grown bigger, louder, and more ready to fight, all because of Wendy Davis’ filibuster on June 25, 2013.

On a more personal level, it began a personal relationship with the Wendy Davis campaign for me. One that I’ll talk it about next time. 🙂

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