|Senator Kirk Watson opened for the elected officials which was appropriate, not only because both events were in his district, but he has been accurately described as having "filibustered the filibuster." With 2 hours still on the clock he brilliantly stalled with procedural maneuvers, just long enough for the "people's filibuster" to take over with 12 minutes left.
He said it was the first time he had to consciously extend his Texas drawl as every tick of the clock brought it closer to midnight and closer to killing the bill.
Members of the House delegation, including Donna Howard and Dawnna Dukes, were also recognized for having worked to wind down the clock to a manageable filibusterable timeframe. Rep. Senfronia Thompson, fondly referred to as "Ms. T" spoke about her decades long fight for a woman's right to make their own decision about health care. During the debate on the House floor she hung a coathanger on the mic as a reminder of where the GOP was trying to take Texas women back to.
Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood and the daughter of Texas' last female Governor Ann Richards reminded everyone what the fight was about -- access to affordable health care. This is something Texas GOP has continually stood in the way of whether it is by trying to defund and shutdown Planned Parenthood or refusing to expand Medicaid. Every year hundreds of thousands of Texans, men and women, rely on the services of Planned Parenthood including screenings and contraception.
Richards fired up the crowd saying they called it an "unruly mob" but it was just "democracy in action, we shook the capitol to its core." The audience was more than happy to reenact that moment with Palmer Event Center rumbling underneath their feet.
She introduced Senator Leticia Van de Putte saying her philosophy is simple, "put Texas first and that means all of Texas."
And as a mother of 6 Van de Putte knows what that means. She started her campaign by saying, "Mama ain't happy." But, the Senator has a knack for soundbites and none are more famous than her line from the floor that night, "At what point must a female Senator raise her hand or her voice to be heard over her male colleagues in the room."
She said though she had been asked many times it was not planned or scripted. She spent a fair amount of her speech describing where it came from -- a lifetime of being told what she could not do because she was a woman. She was told she should not get an advanced degree, she was told she should not run for office because "who would take care of her 6 children?", and she was now being told by her male colleagues that she could not make her own health decisions.
She repeated the line which you can now wear as a shirt, a button, or even a bumper sticker for your car, but said that, "without you my words would have been just that, just words."
She let the crowd know that the fire still burned bright and "we're going to be the unruly mob as long as it takes."
Wendy Davis took the stage after a brief montage of now iconic images, videos and sounds that recapped the night and build anticipation for the Senator's headlining speech. She started by saying this night "marks the anniversary of the people's filibuster but I promise to keep my remarks shorter today." She acknowledged the help of her fellow Senators and Democrats in the House that helped position her to run out the clock.
She said despite what pundits or polls say about her campaign that she will never write those off who came to fight for their right to be heard.
"We fight back against politicians who think they know better than a woman's family, her doctor and her God...We weren't silenced then, and we won't be silent now...we're going to win for the women, children and men who want their voices heard in their Capital."
After the event was over there was an after party hosted by grassroots and reproductive justice groups. It was a great opportunity to see the juxtaposition of establishment party candidates with grassroots issues based activists who may or may not consider themselves democrats or in some cases even voters. But, it is a blueprint for what Democrats need to do to win the state -- fire up the base and bring in disaffected voices whose home has always been in our tent but may have never received a proper invitation.
The scene was orange and organized. There were slam poets, speeches and deputy voter registrars. In the end 3 critical House members, Donna Howard, Donna Dukes and Jessica Farrar stood on the stage and thanked everyone for their participation. Rep. Farrar ended the night by dumping a bag of feminine products on stage that had been confiscated by DPS -- it was the ultimate mic drop to night of inspiring speeches.
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