This past Tuesday, the big orange Stand With Texas Women bus made its first stop in Houston for a rally, before continuing the rest of its trip around the state. Over 1100 people attended the rally in Discovery Green. The energy was high and infectious, and as happened in Austin, many political organizers in Houston were blown away by the force of the moment.
In Houston, “it's really difficult to get people to come out,” Caroline Giese, who worked for the Harris County Democratic Party Coordinated Campaign in 2012 as a Field Organizer explained. “People feel like if you come out in Houston for a progressive cause, there's no point.” Brad Pritchett, who has been organizing around progressive politics in Houston since 2007, said the rally was “Bigger, more enthusiastic, and more hopeful than anything I've ever experienced in the city.”
Laila Khalili, a student at the University of Houston and a member of the Student Feminist Organization, is a Houston native. “Growing up in the Houston area, it seemed like people never really got out to do anything. Especially when it isn't a general election year. I have never seen this much participation!”
“It seems like people are finally starting to do something; like people are finally starting to wake up,” Khalil stated.
More on the Houston rally and the Stand With Texas Women movement after the jump. Though Houston is having municipal elections this November, all three organizers are looking towards the 2014 general election. “The challenge is to harness the energy and optimism after this bill passes,” Brad told me. “Especially with young people, it's about continuing to keep them engaged in the long term.”
Caroline is thinking locally, specifically, Senator Dan Patrick's Harris County seat. “As far as 2014 goes,” she said, “people are really excited that Dan Patrick is leaving. We are actively seeking someone to fill that seat.” She adds, “In his last election, there was a Democrat who did not spend a single cent and got 35 percent of the vote just from straight ticket voters!” This is a seat she thinks could be very competitive in 2014, and this issue is exactly why: “Dan Patrick is going to be gone, and the question for voters in Harris County is, do you want another anti-choice person in his seat?”
This movement has momentum that could go beyond the 2014 election cycle and have a lasting impact on Texas politics, they believe. They can feel the difference this movement is making. “I'm young, and I'm new to political organizing, but I've never seen anything like this before,” Laila said. The impact isn't limited to Texas. “I think it has inspired people all over the country. I've seen people from all over the world saying they stand with Texas women. It's something they can relate to, it's something memorable. We stood up and we fought for it, and we made this something they will remember.”
Caroline has seen the impact in her own family. “Even though we didn't win, we made such a change! My Republican grandmother called Rick Perry, David Dewhurst, and Senator Williams, and said, 'Do not call my granddaughter a part of an unruly mob. That is called democracy!'” Caroline sees a multigenerational impact. “My grandmother has never done anything but vote in general elections as a straight ticket Republican,” she said. “If we can motivate not only young people but a 73 year old Republican woman, then that is really something!”
And in the end, they all agree that the Stand With Texas Women movement doesn't feel like anything they've seen. “It's different,” Brad explained. “Every time I've come to the capitol before, I felt like I was in occupied territory. This is the first time I've been in the capitol and it's felt like our capitol. It feels like it truly is our House.”