Houston, we have solutions
Last week, I joined thousands of Democrats from all over the great state of Texas in celebrating the values, achievements and goals of the Texas Democratic Party.
The event in Houston was full of caucus meetings, workshops and great speeches. We heard from rising stars and established leaders, from grassroots activists and labor organizers. And we made history — Gilberto Hinojosa was elected the party chairman, the first time a Hispanic will take the position, and El Pasoan Mike Apodaca will be state party treasurer.
We have work ahead. We need to re-elect Fort worth Senator Wendy Davis to the Texas Senate, and I am the co-host, along with Senator Eliot Shapleigh, of a fund-raiser on her behalf Thursday (5-7 p.m. at 501 Texas; click here if you’d like to donate to her campaign). We need to work to re-elect President Barack Obama. And of course, we need to elect our local candidates, starting with Beto O’Rourke for Congress and Joe Moody for State Representative District 78. Also, don’t forget to vote in the runoff election on July 31, when some primary campaigns will be settled and precinct chairs will be elected.
Those are all important elections, and elections have consequences. One consequence is our ability to pursue good policy and stop bad policy. My office is working with the Senate Democratic Caucus on promoting government transparency, accountability in state budgeting, and restoring full funding to education, among other state and local issues.
At the convention, I was elected by the Hispanic Caucus to serve on the Democratic National Committee. I’ll also serve as a delegate to the national convention. I’m looking forward to working with the national party on key issues.
The El Paso Caucus elected new leaders and kept current ones. Becky Robledo will be a State Democratic Committee Woman for the first time while Don Williams will keep his position. Elected as delegates to the national convention in September in Charlotte, N.C., were Jeanette Walker, Don Williams, Ruth Williams, Danny Anchondo, and Yolanda Clay.
Statewide, Boyd Richie stepped down after six years as the state Democratic Party chairman. Gilberto Hinojosa worked hard to become the state’s first Hispanic party chairman. You couldn’t walk 10 feet without getting slapped with a Hinojosa sticker! It was great to see an El Pasoan, Michael Apodaca, elected as Texas Democratic Party treasurer.
The convention began with caucus meetings and workshops on Friday. That night we heard from Boyd Richie, the outgoing chair of the party, and from San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, who offered a great metaphor for Texas under Republican control.
He compared the state to a shiny penny, rusted on bottom. “That’s Rick Perry’s Texas. They’re so busy patting themselves on the back over the shiny side they neglect the decay on the bottom,” Castro said, pointing to high poverty and low education rates. The energy boom is driving the economy but Republicans are not protecting our air and water, and they are not not investing back into key programs for all Texans, failing to fund education and medicaid, and cutting women’s health, just to give two examples. On top of that they use accounting gimmicks to balance the books.
Women’s health is a key issue that I’ve followed closely. Planned Parenthood is an essential provider of health services for low-income women, and by leading an ideological assault on the organization Republicans are hurting women. That message was loud and clear at the Lady Bird Johnson breakfast, where “Women are Watching” was the theme and Mini Timmaraju reminded us that “women’s health issues are economic issues,” a message Planned Parenthood will take on a bus tour across the country, including to the Republican National Convention, before they end up at the Democratic National Convention.
I’m proud to be a member of the Democratic National Committee and am planning to attend the national convention. But we have some work to do to educate them on Texas. While the political reputation of the state has been tarnished by the likes of Rick Perry, Texas has done better and will do better as Democrats make inroads. The Republicans have tried to draw lines that shut us out of representation, but eventually our numbers will be too great to cheat. The national party can help that process — Turn Texas Blue — by supporting our candidates and campaigns and by continuing and stepping up their Latino outreach, like we’re doing in Texas with the Promesa project, young activists I was happy to see at the state convention.
The state convention was a celebration of Texas and the United States. While Republicans were booing each other, we were united.
Congressman Al Green led a rousing chorus of God Bless America, and Julián Castro, in his keynote speech Friday night, described his family history — a grandmother who came to the U.S. as a child, and never advanced beyond the third grade. With hard work, and with an emphasis on education for her children, they went on to success. Julián is mayor of San Antonio, the 7th-largest city in the country, and his brother Joaquin, who introduced Julián’s speech, is a congressional candidate who likely will win his fall campaign.
Yet, Joaquin said, “my family’s story is not special. What’s special is the America that made my family’s story possible.”
The Democratic Party represents that America.