Texas hasn’t elected a Democrat as governor in two decades. On Nov. 4, we will have the ability to change that track record when we choose between a woman who has consistently stood for the needs of Texans and a man who wants to continue policies that value Texas’ future so little that his party slashed $5.4 billion from public education.
The conventional wisdom is that a Democrat can’t win a statewide office in Texas. But this is the November that we’ll buck the trend.
It’s no secret that the campaign of state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, has faced enormous obstacles. Decades of Republican leadership have cultivated an environment in which likely voters are white men, districts are gerrymandered along racial lines and voters accept Republican victories as inevitable — to the point of apathy.
Let’s set the record straight: Texas isn’t a red state. It’s a nonvoting state. Texas ranks 51st in voter turnout. We’re not participating in our democracy, and the result is a slate of politicians that doesn’t reflect the diversity of our state. The result is politicians who create a framework of barriers to voting that keeps the status quo in power, despite Texas’ rapidly shifting demographics.
The latest Lyceum poll shows only a single-digit split between Abbott and Davis. This survey was conducted in mid-September and sampled likely voters. The thing is, though, that when a Democrat gets elected governor in Texas, it’s going to be because of unlikely voters.
Organizations like Battleground Texas have embraced this. Over the past year, the organization has been working tirelessly to engage with people whom Republicans would rather be left out of the democratic process. On our own campus, organizations like University Democrats, Students for Wendy, Hook the Vote, UT Votes and Texas Freedom Network have registered thousands of students. On the deadline to register, Travis County alone registered between 8,000 and 10,000 people. This influx of voters has the power to transform the outcome of the November elections.
Abbott and his campaign know this. Their recent release of an attack ad in September demonstrates that they’re beginning to feel threatened by the strides Davis’ campaign has made. If you’re comfortably in the lead and confident in your impending victory, there is absolutely no reason to go negative with your ads. Candidates go negative when they’re worried about their chances.
Davis has built a strong campaign around a central idea: that where you come from shouldn’t affect how far you will go. She’s looked around at a state where 1 in 4 Texas children will grow up in abject poverty and 1 in 3 Texans can’t afford basic health insurance. She sees a state where the bottom 20 percent of wage earners have seen their purchasing power lower by 10 percent in the last decade. This is a state where the debate is not about how much we can improve our schools, but about how many teachers we’ll have to lay off. And this is a state where women still average 77 cents for every man’s dollar.
This is a state that is failing its promise to its citizens. Davis knows intimately about the transformative power of education and is the only candidate who has demonstrated a desire to fight for the right of all Texans to access it. And despite the smear campaigns and the cynical skeptics, Texans realize this. More Texans than ever before will be able to participate in elections this November, and they’re going to vote for the candidate who will make sure that the Texas promise of opportunity, freedom and equality for all can be fully realized.
Adams is a mechanical engineering senior from Dripping Springs. She is the communications director of the University Democrats.