U.S. News: The Rise of Wendy Davis

Updated August 5, 2020 | Infoplease Staff


How this yellow rose of Texas went from gutsy filibuster to a run for governor.

Wendy Davis

Wendy Davis, 2013
Photo Credit: Kevin Sutherland

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On June 25, 2013, Texas Senator Wendy Davis received national attention and wide praise for her marathon filibuster against a restrictive abortion bill. The filibuster delayed a vote on some of the strictest abortion regulations in the country. When Texas Republicans called a special session to pass the bill, which would greatly limit abortion access in Texas, Davis stood on the Senate floor for 11 hours straight.

According to Texas filibuster rules, Davis had to stay on topic, could not lean on anything and could not take a bathroom break. She wore pink sneakers and put on a back brace for support. An hour and a half before midnight, Republicans shut down her filibuster saying she violated the Senate's three strikes rule. According to the Republicans, strike one was when Davis went off topic by mentioning Planned Parenthood's budget. Strike two was when she put on a back brace, which violated the lean on anything policy. Finally, strike three was when Davis mentioned the state's 2011 sonogram law because, Republicans claimed, that was off topic, too. That ended Davis' filibuster. However, reproductive rights supporters and Davis' fellow democrats began to chant and shout, creating their own filibuster.

State troopers were ordered to clear the room of protestors, but many refused to leave. Some reproductive rights supporters had to be dragged out of the building. By the time the Senate could vote, it was after midnight so the bill didn't pass. The bill eventually did pass, but Gov. Rick Perry had to call a second special session to get it done.

No Stranger to Speaking Out

The June 2013 filibuster wasn't the first time Davis made headlines. In 2011, she spoke out against a $5.4 billion budget cut to public schools. It was Davis who established a veterans' court in Texas. She has also been a strong supporter of equal pay for women as well as strong water and transportation infrastructure. Davis has quite an American success story behind her as well. She was raised by a single mother. By the age of 21, she was a single mother herself. Later, she graduated from Harvard Law School. In 2008, she was elected to the Texas Senate.

Davis was in the news again on October 3, 2013. After months of speculation, she officially announced her candidacy for governor. Davis faced an uphill battle even with Gov. Perry not seeking reelection. Before Davis even made the announcement, various Conservatives had already started attacking her. A top adviser to GOP front runner Greg Abbott tweeted that she was "too stupid to be governor." Other conservatives nicknamed her "abortion Barbie." Texas hasn't elected a Democrat for governor since Ann Richards in 1991. On October 2, the nonpartisan group Texas Lyceum released a poll showing Davis trailing Abbott by only 8 points, with 50 percent of the voters still undecided."

Until the Corridors of Power Are the Corridors of the People

Davis announced her candidacy at the Wiley G. Thomas Coliseum in Haltom City, Texas, the same stage where she received her high school diploma. When announcing her candidacy, she said, "Thirty-two years ago, I walked across this stage, the granddaughter of farmers from Muleshoe, Texas, who could only afford to rent the land they farmed. I had no real idea what the future looked like. Today, I see it pretty clearly. It’s looking right at me. It’s you. It’s all of you. And all of you deserve to have your voices heard. Because our future is brightest when it’s lit by everyone’s star. And that’s why, today, I’m proud to announce my candidacy to be the 48th governor of this great state."

Davis knew she had a fight ahead of her. "Until every child from Longview to Lubbock to McAllen to Mesquite makes it to a stage like this, and gets their diploma, and knows that nothing will wash out the road to their future dreams, we will keep going. Until the corridors of power are the corridors of the people, until problem-solving trumps partisanship, until our state is 'a lot less lone and a lot more star,' we will keep going. As long as we can make this great state even greater, we will keep going. Because with the right kind of leadership, the great state of Texas will keep its sacred promise that where you start has nothing to do with how far you can go," she said.

by Jennie Wood

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