PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

November 20, 2013

Wendy Davis tours Port of Beaumont

Erinn Callahan
The Port Arthur News

BEAUMONT — State Sen. Wendy Davis burst onto the national political stage in June, when she spent 11 hours filibustering in an attempt to block Senate Bill 5, a contentious piece of legislation that banned abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and required abortion clinics to meet the same standards as an ambulatory surgical center. Although the bill passed the next month during a special session called by Gov. Rick Perry, Davis breathed new life into a Texas Democratic Party that last saw an official elected to statewide office in 1994.

However, during a tour of the Port of Beaumont on Tuesday, Davis, D-Fort Worth, shied away from the label “pro-choice.” In fact, Davis said, part of her objective with the filibuster was to step outside the often polarizing methods of discussion that federal officials are prone to.

“In Texas, I think that people are tired of us going to partisan corners and talking about things in divisive ways,” Davis, who announced her candidacy in next year’s gubernatorial race on Oct. 3, said at a press conference prior to the tour. “They want to see us handle and lead on the issues that are most important to them.”

Those issues, Davis said, are ensuring access to a quality public education for Texas children, investing in higher education, and seeing that Texas veterans return home to jobs and affordable health care after an overseas stint.

Education is especially near to Davis’ heart. Raised by a single mother with only a sixth-grade education, Davis entered the workforce at age 14. By 19, she was divorced and raising her daughter alone. After graduating from the paralegal program at Tarrant County Junior College, Davis transferred to Texas Christian University on a full scholarship — where she graduated first in her class before moving up north to attend Harvard Law School.

“I'm a product of a Texas that believed that people like me, if I'm willing to work hard, should be given a chance to be part of the Texas dream,” Davis said. “I think every Texan deserves that same chance, and that where you start shouldn't determine how far you can go here.”

If elected governor, Davis said she would restore the entire $5.5 billion cut from the education budget in 2011 — a decrease she also filibustered, which cost 25,000 Texas educators their jobs and forced children into overcrowded classrooms.

“If we can't support and grow our work force by supporting a good public education system in Texas, we are failing to do what we need to do to invest in the future economy of Texas,” Davis said. “I want to see us make sure that we keep our economy strong because we’re keeping our workforce strong. That’s my number one priority.”

Rep. Joe Deshotel, who joined Davis on the tour bus, said that while the race is winnable for Davis, her greatest adversary may come not from the Republican Party, but from voter apathy.

“We don't have to register another voter in the Democratic Party to win the election, if we can get them out to the polls,” Deshotel, D-Beaumont, said. “That’s a challenge.”

But, Deshotel said, with the team of Davis and State Sen. Leticia van de Putte — who is expected to announce her candidacy for the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor — it can be done.

“I think Leticia is going to light this thing up along with Wendy, and it's going to be a very interesting race,” Deshotel said. “I’m looking forward to the political season.”

Email: ecallahan@panews.com

Twitter: @ErinnPA