The air inside the Gearing lecture hall on the University of Texas campus buzzed with youthful exuberance Wednesday evening as the University of Texas Democrats held their first forum to give the current field of Democratic candidates a chance to introduce themselves to this active and influential group of students.
The UDems are a cornerstone of any locally run campaign due to the power of their primary endorsements and their enthusiastic pool of campaign volunteers. The fresh-faced progressives and veteran Yellow Dogs chattered optimistically about the upcoming contest with a level of excitement that was undoubtedly stimulated by the copious amount of free ice cream that was being consumed.
Candidates and staffers circulated among the assembled crowd and eagerly tried to get their bona fides across in densley packed micro-bursts of campaign rhetoric. Those with opponents in the room attempted to assert, in as diplomatic a way as possible, their supremacy over their esteemed colleagues. The fervor was beginning reach crescendo when Paul Sadler took the floor to list the motivations,credentials and experience that he thinks make him an ideal candidate to occupy the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison.
Former State Representative Paul Sadler began his speech by bemoaning a media culture that chose, over the winter break, to over-report the death of a tyrannical despot, Kim Jong-il, to the detriment of Václav Havel, a playwright, president, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee who had passed away with barely a notice outside the Czech Republic. He extolled the merits of Havel's seminal work, The Art of the Impossible, and explained that the book had been given to him by a Republican house member with whom he had worked on various projects. He went on to lay out his reasons for going into political life and for, temporarily, leaving it behind. He explained that his overriding determination to see all Texans properly educated brought him into the House of Representatives in 1991 and the necessity to turn his full attention to the needs of his son, who had been injured in a serious car accident, that took him out of it in 2003. His son has since made a full recovery and is now a junior at the University of Mississippi.
Sadler focused the core of his speech on his efforts in the field of education reform during his time at the Texas House, centering on his tenure as Chairman of the Public Education Committee. It was in that position that he orchestrated the complete re-write of the 1,200 page Texas Education Code in 1995 as well as providing teachers with state-sponsored public employee health insurance for the first time in the state's 160 year history. He ended with a brief Q & A that, as one might expect, concentrated on what he might do about rising tuition and plummeting university budgets if he were to be elected.
The UDems sent him off on his crusade with ebullient applause and dutifully remained seated to hear the full round of potential constables and court judges plead their cases before departing en masse to Player's for burgers and boosterism.