Davis calls on Abbott to stop defending same-sex marriage ban

Democratic Senators Wendy Davis and Royce West at a protest before the start of a special session of the Texas legislature in Austin, TexasSAN ANTONIO — Sen. Wendy Davis said Thursday  she supports same-sex marriage and that Attorney General Greg Abbott, her presumed general-election opponent in the race for governor, should stop defending the state’s ban, the Houston Chronicle reported.

“It’s my strong belief that when people love each other and are desirous of creating a committed relationship with each other that they should be allowed to marry, regardless of their sexual orientation,” Davis told the Express-News editorial board.

Davis, D-Fort Worth, said she is “pleased” that the state’s constitutional definition of marriage, as being between a man and a woman, is under challenge in federal court.

“I think that what we see happening at the federal level in terms of constitutional interpretations on that provide some hope that it may be found unconstitutional,” she said.

The Republican attorney general’s office is defending the constitutional provision.

Asked if she would call on him to stop doing so — as she earlier called on Abbott this week to reach a settlement in a state school funding lawsuit — Davis said that “makes perfect sense. We’ve seen that happen.”

She cited such decisions by Virginia and Nevada.

“Obviously our AG has the capacity to do the same if he chooses to do so,” she said. Asked if she would call on him to do so, she said yes.

Abbott spokesman Matt Hirsch scoffed at Davis’ urging.

“Unlike Senator Davis’ positions on the issues, the Texas constitution is not subject to change on the latest whims of the day. Senator Davis’ comment suggesting the Attorney General not enforce the Constitution mimics an Obama-style approach to government, and Texans deserve better,” Hirsch said.

Davis, asked if she would push to repeal the state constitutional provision on gay marriage if elected governor, said, “I would certainly open up that conversation with the Legislature.

“I think it’s important, and I think that people across this country are evolving on that issue and moving in a direction that demonstrates support for it, so I think it is time to re-open that conversation and ask Texans where they are on it to see if that’s something that we might change legislatively if it doesn’t happen constitutionally,” she said.

—  Steve Ramos

HRC endorses ‘champion for equality’ Wendy Davis for governor

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The nation’s largest LGBT advocacy group, the Human Rights Campaign, is endorsing state Sen. Wendy Davis in her gubernatorial bid, the organization announced Wednesday.

“Wendy Davis has been a champion for equality for all, whether it is the working poor or LGBT Texans,” HRC President Chad Griffin said. “Her dedication to the underdog and commitment to fairness for all Texas families make her the right choice for Governor.”

Davis has a proven record on LGBT issues in the state Legislature.

She authored the only LGBT-inclusive version of anti-bullying legislation in 2011. That same year she co-sponsored youth suicide prevention legislation and lobbied to kill an anti-transgender marriage bill.

Last year’s session was just as impressive with her co-authoring the Senate version of a statewide workplace nondiscrimination bill and co-authoring inclusive insurance nondiscrimination legislation. And when a different version of the anti-trans marriage bill came up, she was one of only two senators to vote against it.

HRC endorsed Davis because of her “stellar record on LGBT equality” and ” history of putting Texas’ families first,” compared to anti-gay Greg Abbott, her likely opponent in November.

“Wendy Davis’ energy and courage are needed in Austin,” said Julie Johnson, a Texas attorney and HRC board member emeritus. “I’m proud to be one of the tens of thousands of HRC members in Texas, and I know that Wendy will fight for all our families when elected. Wendy has proven herself an effective leader — and that’s exactly what the people of Texas need.”

But, surprisingly, she wasn’t connected to any of the three pieces of legislation dealing with marriage equality last year, HJR 77, HJR 78 and HB 1300. Davis has never made a public statement in support of marriage equality, and when asked by Dallas Voice during a press conference about how she would approach it as governor, she replied that she would leave it in the Legislature’s hands.

Since filing for governor, Davis has publicly applauded San Antonio’s nondiscrimination ordinance. Davis supported a similar ordinance in 2000 when she served on the Fort Worth City Council. But her campaign has since been silent on LGBT issues. Davis was a surprise speaker at HRC’s Black Tie Dinner in November, and she’ll be attending a Dallas LGBT fundraiser at a lesbian couple’s home this Friday, which is closed to media. Despite showing up at fundraisers and events where she appeals to LGBT voters, her campaign has refused several requests for an interview with Dallas Voice for the reason that she is too busy.

—  Anna Waugh

Wendy Davis proposes first of education reforms

Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis

Gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis

Texas gubernatorial candidate Sen. Wendy Davis spoke to the press at University of Texas Arlington Thursday to lay out the first part of her education plan. In the 2011 legislative session, she filibustered the multi-billion dollar cut to education and was among the principle senators who pushed the anti-bullying bill through the Senate Education Committee.

“Education is a conversation we plan to have over the course of the campaign,” Davis said. “Great schools create a great Texas.”

The first part of her education plan revealed Thursday involves teacher. To train more teachers, Davis proposed that any high school junior in the top 20 percent of the class would gain early admission to a Texas college in a teacher-training program. Student loan forgiveness would be tied to teaching service with two years of teaching forgiving one year of debt.

She also proposed bringing Texas teacher salaries up to the national average.

“We need to show teachers they were worth the investment,” she said.

Her program also would increase the number of school counselors, and a program dropped in 2012 would help teacher’s aides go back to school to gain certification as full-time teachers.

 

—  David Taffet

Davis: Fort Worth is ground zero for my campaign

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Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis

A little over two months into her run for the Texas governor’s office, state Sen. Wendy Davis said on Saturday that Fort Worth is “ground zero” for her campaign.

Davis spoke to a packed-in crowd of supporters at 219 South Main St., enforcing the message that people from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds can achieve educational and professional success. Davis has often told the story of her impoverished background and how she worked to overcome it. A single mother at 19, she earned a law degree from Harvard after attending community college and graduating from Texas Christian University.

Political watchers have said a gubernatorial race can’t succeed without an Austin-based campaign headquarters, but Davis said she has proven them wrong before.

“When I ran for the state Senate in 2008, pundits all across the state said there was no way we could win, and obviously we did,” Davis said.

Education reform and equality issues occupy much of Davis’ speeches. When asked, however, how far into her term as governor, if elected, would she address marriage equality in Texas and how, Davis replied, “I would rely on the Legislature to do that.”

—  Steve Ramos

Davis endorses SA nondiscrimination ordinance, gets Castro’s support

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Sen. Wendy Davis announcing her bid for governor

State. Sen. Wendy Davis appeared in San Antonio on Monday for a campaign stop, during which she endorsed the city’s new nondiscrimination ordinance and was endorsed by Mayor Julian Castro.

Davis said she hoped the new ordinance in San Antonio would become commonplace throughout Texas. Fort Worth has a similar ordinance, which Davis voted for when she sat on the City Council.

“I hope that it becomes something that is commonplace,” Davis said. “I look forward to a Texas where we see that in every city in the state.”

Davis later told reporters that it’s “important that people be treated equally in the workplace, plain and simple.”

Her position is the opposite of Attorney General Greg Abbott, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination. He threatened to file suit against the ordinance, claiming it violated freedom of religion. He dropped the suit when he couldn’t find any way discriminating against people was a religious right.

An Abbott spokesman reiterated his opposition to the nondiscrimination ordinance but also indicated opposition to some private companies adopting those policies.

“Both the U.S. and Texas Constitutions protect faith-based organizations from being coerced into employing persons in a way that would require them to violate their faith,” the spokesman told Texas Tribune.

Davis announced she was running for governor last week at a rally in Haltom City.

Filing for the primaries begins Nov. 9. The primary will be held in March.

—  David Taffet

Wendy Davis: I’m running!

Screen shot 2013-10-03 at 5.04.30 PMBefore speaking to hundreds of supporters Thursday afternoon, state Sen. Wendy Davis announced her intentions to run for governor in an email to media.

The Fort Worth Democrat later addressed the large group at Wiley G. Thomas Coliseum in Haltom City, where she graduated from high school.

“We’re here because we believe it’s time to give all Texans a voice in their future and in a place in Texas’ future,” Davis said amid chants of “Wendy, Wendy” from the crowd.

“We are all here because we love Texas and we it’s time for a leader who will put Texans first,” Davis said.

She touched on her education filibuster in 2011 that restored millions to public education and said every Texan deserves “the promise of a better tomorrow.”

“Texans deserve a leader who will protect this promise,” Davis said. “Texans deserve a leader who will keep it.”

While Democrats are eager for Davis to turn Texas blue, a new poll by Texas Lyceum, a nonpartisan, nonprofit group, shows half of voters haven’t decided whether to support her or Attorney General Greg Abbott, who’s the favorite for the GOP nomination.

Of the voters who’ve made up their minds, Abbott leads Davis by 29 percent to 21 percent.

The poll surveyed 800 registered voters from Sept. 6-20. It has a plus or minus 3.47 percentage points.

Davis has been a longtime supporter of the LGBT community.

After her announcement, Abbott released a statement:

“Once again, Texas Democrats are attempting to conjure support for California-style candidates that try to sell Obama’s liberal agenda and go against what makes Texas great. Nonetheless, we welcome Senator Davis to the race, and look forward to presenting the clear differences and debating the important issues that will preserve the economic miracle in Texas.”

For more on the race, see Friday’s Dallas Voice.

—  Anna Waugh

Wendy Davis to return to roots to announce her governor bid

State Sen. Wendy Davis addresses the crowd at the Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats Spring Fundraising Kick-off Party in Fort Worth Wednesday, May 23. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

Sen. Wendy Davis

State Sen. Wendy Davis plans to announce her future political plans next Thursday at Wiley G. Thomas Coliseum in Haltom City, where she graduated from high school.

Davis made the plans public in a media advisory Thursday evening, but didn’t say which office she’ll be running for — either her Senate District 10 seat or governor. But there was no need. Sources have been saying she’d run for the Democratic nomination since before she postponed an announcement when her father became ill.

And sources are again confirming that the senator, who shot to stardom after an 13-hour marathon filibuster this summer to block an abortion bill, will indeed run for governor.

The race, with Attorney General Greg Abbott running as the Republican favorite, is sure to be an ugly fight. Abbott has tirelessly fought against the LGBT community in situations like the two gay divorce cases now at the Texas Supreme Court and issued an opinion earlier this year that said he thought domestic partner benefits violated the state’s marriage amendment.

Davis, on the other hand, has been an LGBT champion, from voting for Fort Worth’s nondiscrimination ordinance when she served on the City Council to fighting for LGBT-specific protections in the state’s anti-bullying law in 2011.

Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns, who’s openly gay and took Davis’ council seat when she ran for the Senate, is a favorite to replace her again in the Senate.

Burns has said he will not comment on the race until Davis makes her plans official.

—  Anna Waugh

Wendy Davis says she’ll announce possible governor bid on Oct. 3

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Texas Democratic Party Executive Director Will Hailer

State Sen. Wendy Davis announced today that she’ll make an announcement about her political future — and a possible governor run — on Oct. 3.

The Fort Worth native and LGBT ally was the talk of the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas meeting Tuesday.

The Texas Democratic Party’s new Executive Director Will Hailer addressed the group and hinted that Davis will run for governor.

Hailer moved to Texas from Minnesota in May and since his arrival the party’s staff has increased from four to 21. He said he expects to double that as the 2014 election approaches.

His experience includes the election that saw the defeat of an anti-marriage amendment in Minnesota by 10 points that led to the state becoming a marriage-equality state within six months.

In his first few months at the helm of the party, Hailer said he’s traveled around the state visiting Democratic clubs.

“People are fired up,” he said.

His strategy to take a statewide office for the first time in 20 years is to do what Democrats did in Minnesota.

“Have neighbors talking to neighbors,” he said.

And talk about the issues. He said Gov. Rick Perry vetoed a statewide Lilly Ledbetter bill. He wants to talk about equal pay for women.

He wants Democrats to talk about healthcare, affordable education, clear air and clean water.

“Talk about our values,” he said. “We can’t let Republicans bully us anymore. We believe in equality and the right to marry who you love.”

He said Texas is not a Red State but a non-voting state and is planning massive voter-registration and voter-turnout drives.

Hailer described the ticket he’d like to see on the 2014 statewide ballot.

“I think we need a woman from Fort Worth,” he said, but then stopped short. “I’m not making an announcement.”

But he said an announcement would come shortly, and it seems it will.

This morning, Davis sent out an email to supporters.

There’s one question I’ve gotten quite often in the past few months. I’ve heard it online, while I’m traveling around the state, from the media, and in my Fort Worth neighborhood: What’s next?

On October 3rd, I’ll be answering that question. And as part of my dedicated network of grassroots supporters, you will be among the very first to find out.

So look for her announcement on Oct. 3. And just an observation: No one does this type of build up to announce they’re not running.

—  David Taffet

Wendy Davis may announce her intention to run for governor this week

State Sen. Wendy Davis addresses the crowd at the Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats Spring Fundraising Kick-off Party in Fort Worth Wednesday, May 23. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

State Sen. Wendy Davis

State Sen. Wendy Davis may announce her poltical intentions to run for governor later this week.

She had planned an announcement on whether she would run for re-election to her Senate seat or for governor after Labor Day until her father became ill. He died earlier this month.

Davis’ father was Stage West founder Jerry Russell.

To run a competitive campaign against Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is seeking the Republican nomination, Davis would need to raise at least $40 million. Advisers are confident she would be able to do that.

Davis sent the following announcement to supporters and followers today:

—  David Taffet

Stage West founder Jerry Russell, father of state Sen. Wendy Davis, dies

JerrRussellJerry Russell, an accomplished local actor and founder of Fort Worth’s Stage West theater, died peacefully in his sleep overnight. He was surrounded by family including his daughter, state Sen. Wendy Davis. He was 77.

Sen. Davis, D-Fort Worth, recently postponed an announcement about whether she plans to run for governor in 2014 due to her father’s illness.

Russell entered the hospital for a surgical procedure last week, but developed complications following a bout of pneumonia.

Russell founded Stage West, one of Fort Worth’s most acclaimed theater companies, in 1979 out of his European-style sandwich shop. It grew exponentially over the years, doubling its audience with each show in its first year alone, eventually becoming a go-to place for edgy modern productions. Along with regulars including Jim Covault and Dana Schultes, Russell also was one of the regular performers the Stage West, turning in many memorable performances while also directing many of the shows, but it wasn’t just there that he found success. Russell performed in many area theaters, often at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas (memorably in On Golden Pond and Visiting Mr. Green).

He passed away leaving a legacy of memorable performances and tremendous artistic integrity. Funeral arrangements will be forthcoming.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones