Unlike many of my colleagues, I wasn't at the capitol one year ago–I wasn't even in Texas at all. For me, June 25, 2013 began much as any other day. I was packing up my apartment in Chicago after graduating college, and wasn't really paying much attention to what was going on in the Legislature of my home state. I'd always been an avid follower of Texas politics (and longtime reader of BOR), but with all that had been going on around my graduation, the Texas Legislature wasn't exactly the first thing on my mind.
Little did I know that was all soon about to change.
Sometime in the early afternoon, I noticed some friends on Facebook posting about a filibuster that was currently taking place on the floor of the Texas Senate. As the afternoon wore on, the flood of posts about Wendy Davis and her pink sneakers fighting back against a draconian abortion ban continued to grow. I'd been paying attention to other things the past couple weeks, and hadn't noticed much of the buildup to the filibuster, but I quickly got myself up to speed. In all my years of watching and participating in Texas politics, I had never seen anything quite like this–and I knew it was the start of something special.
Read more about how Wendy Davis' filibuster sparked a renewed desire for change after the jump. As I packed my boxes that Tuesday afternoon, I watched my social media feeds blew up with posts about Wendy Davis and the filibuster. Pretty soon, even friends who weren't from Texas were taking notice of what was happening under the dome. The Texas Legislature was gaining national attention, and for once it wasn't because a Tea Partier had said something stupid and/or crazy. It was because a woman, with the support of her Democratic peers, was standing up to Republican efforts to intrude upon the health of women across Texas.
I knew this was something I had to watch. I turned off my usual packing music (the early 2000s hip-hop station on Pandora), and switched over to the filibuster livestream. Burnt Orange Report, my trusted news source for everything Texas politics, was constantly being refreshed so I could read the liveblog with commentary. I heard Wendy Davis read the stories of countless women who would have faced dire circumstances if SB 5 passed. As midnight neared, I watched Leticia Van de Putte challenge her male colleagues, causing the gallery to erupt into the People's Filibuster. I rejoiced as the bill was defeated that night, and once again the next morning as David Dewhurst's attempt to falsify the bill's voting record was exposed.
I was back in Texas by the end of the week, and immediately made plans to be at the Capitol bright and early on July 1 to rally against the new special session and in support of Texas women. As I joined the sea of orange in front of the Capitol, I saw one of the most inspiring political events I'd ever been to. Our enthusiasm for Wendy Davis and other Democrats couldn't be contained, nor could our voices be silenced. I ran into friends at that rally whom I hadn't seen for years–people I never would have thought were interested in Texas politics. Something had been awakened in our collective consciousness. Republicans had pushed too far, and this time we would make sure they knew it.
I began writing for BOR later that month, and was excited to join the staff of a blog I'd known and read for years. I was ready to do my part to keep the progressive momentum going, to shine a light on what is happening in Texas so people knew that even though the rally was over, our gaze hadn't wavered. People had seen what Texas progressives were capable of, and we were not going to let up.
The thought of Texas turning blue had always been a dream, but last summer I saw with my own eyes that it was possible. Wendy Davis was the spark that lit a fire underneath the progressive movement in Texas. People came to the Austin from all over the state to fight SB 5 and HB 2, and even more turned out in their own communities to see Wendy Davis, Cecile Richards, and others who made their way across the state. We organized and mobilized and became a force to be reckoned with.
Now that the fire has been lit, there is no turning back. The past year has seen enormous strides in improving the infrastructure progressives need to win elections. Extraordinary candidates have stepped up on all levels of the ballot–many of them strong, inspiring women like Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte. Last year we saw what we're capable of, and we're making sure that this year we'll be capable of even more.
June 25, 2013 wasn't just any other day–it was the start of something incredible. But it was only the beginning. The passion for change that was sparked in the hearts of Texas progressives that day continues to rage on, and it's what will lead us to change Texas for the better.