Wendy Davis on Running for Office Again, Life After Defeat
On June 24, 2013, few Americans knew the name Wendy Davis. By the following evening, millions of people, including President Obama, had taken to social media to support the state senator’s 11-hour filibuster to stop a virulent anti-abortion bill making its way through the Texas legislature.
The law, HB 2, was eventually passed during a special session of the legislature, but Davis had become a pro-choice icon and a political star. Riding the #StandWithWendy momentum, Davis ran for governor last November – the first female nominee for the state’s highest office since Ann Richards lost re-election in 1994. Davis lost the race to then state attorney general Greg Abbott by a disappointing 20 points.
I sat down with Davis Monday at her Manhattan hotel to find out what she’s been up to over the past ten months, and what lies ahead. After catching up about Fort Worth – Davis was my city councilwoman during the three-and-a-half years I lived in the city, in the early 2000s, and we’re both alums of Texas Christian University – she opened up about how she hopes to run for office again, and how she would run a different campaign today than she did in 2014.
It’s been reported that you’re launching a women’s equality initiative. What can you tell us about it?
It’s still in the planning stages. But when I came out of the gubernatorial campaign, I reflected on, “What do I want to do now?” because this is the first time in 16 years that I haven’t been in public office. Not being in office – not having my state senate seat – was much harder than losing that gubernatorial election, because I care so very much about these issues. I gave some thought to, “How do I continue to play a role?” And I just listened for a while, to my own inner voice and to what was happening around me, and I took note of the fact that I continue to have a real audience with young women – millennials in general, but particularly young women, who continue, regardless of where I am, to come up to me and say, “Thank you, please don’t give up, we need you to fight for us.” I paid attention to that, and decided I should use this platform that I have to engage millennials and hopefully to help them see the valuable role they have in the political process.
There’s been a great deal of research into what millennials care about, what they’re thinking about, what they’re up to, and it’s really remarkable – it’s a generation of people that cares so much about doing something of value in the world – much more so than generations that preceded them. But they’re very disengaged from the political process. They don’t feel like it’s something that can actually make a difference in their lives. They certainly haven’t seen it function in any way close to productive in their lifetime.
Do you think that’s especially true for women in Texas who grew up with Ann Richards in office and haven’t seen a woman in the governor’s mansion since?
I do, but in particular it’s true for even younger women who didn’t grow up during Ann Richards’ time, who are looking and hungry for female leadership.
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