Attending a political campaign stop is a lot like going to a comedy club — there are always a few warm-up acts before the main event. It’s a risky strategy; if the warm-up acts aren’t good, the crowd will lose interest.
Luckily for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, the Young Democrats of UTSA prepped the house with a trio of excellent speakers. Student Representative Iliana Gonzalez, Methodist minister and Associate Professor Carmen Tafolla worked the room well. The moment Davis entered, a crowd of over 200 UTSA students burst into raucous cheer.
For Bryan Bejarano, the vice-president of the Young Democrats. watching Davis walk to the stage was a moment of triumph. “Normally we would need at least a month to organize an event like that,” said Bejarano, who helped put the event together in a week’s time.
Although Davis’ speech was only minimally tailored to UTSA students, the enthusiasm of the crowd waned little as she spoke. “The problem with my opponent Greg Abbott,” stated Davis, “is not that he doesn’t work hard; it’s that he is actually working hard against you.”
She protrayed Abbott as a friend to “insiders” of the Texas government while painting herself as a candidate who cares about the needs of her supporters more than the needs of big business.
“I know what it’s like to face challenge after challenge and setback after setback; because, mine is a story of stops,” she said empathically. “But more importantly, it’s a story of starts and that story of starts is what I want to create for every single student in this great state.”
The Abbott campaign responded to Davis’ accusations by highlighting the work Davis’s legal firm performed for the North Texas Tollway Authority, a toll way operator that created uproar on Sept. 7 when they announced they would not permit veterans to use several of their Dallas roads for free.
Communications Director of Texans for Greg Abbott, Matt Hirsh commented, “It’s ironic that Sen. Davis – who has repeatedly profited from public service and whose legal work is part of an FBI investigation – would question the integrity of Attorney General Abbott.”
Speaking to the college demographic, Davis spent several minutes admonishing Abbott for defending in court the Texas Legislature’s decision to cut $5.4 billion from public education spending in 2011. She emphasized that the only way she was able to attain higher education was with the assistance of state financial aid.
“Our state isn’t really doing the same as it once did for people like me when I was going through tough times,” Davis said.
Continuing her appeal to a collegiate audience, Davis discussed her view on minimum wage, stating, “$7.25 an hour is $15,000 a year, and I know from experience that is not enough to support a family.”
Someone from within the crowd shouted, “It’s not even enough to afford college,” drawing laughter from the audience and a smile from Davis.
Abbott’s campaign spurned Davis’ minimum wage proposal in a press release by Spokeswoman Amelia Chasse, stating that embracing “Obama’s big government mandates” would drive up the cost of doing business in Texas, damaging its economy and stunting job growth.
As is often the case with Davis’ campaign stops, audience excitement peaked when Davis mentioned her support for women’s reproductive health care and the 2013 filibuster against a restrictive abortion bill that began her journey to run for governor.
The pro-choice candidate made a bold statement on Sept. 7 when she revealed in the passages of her new book, “Forgetting to be Afraid,” that she terminated two pregnancies for medical reasons in the 90’s. Greg Abbott expressed his sympathy for the Davis family in a statement released later the same day.