Speech to the Johnson Bentsen Richards Dinner, January 28, 2014
Thank you all for being here today.
Isn’t it a great night to be in Austin Texas?
And isn’t it a great night to be a Texas Democrat?
I’m so proud to be in this room with you all tonight. And as I’ve heard someone say, you’re damn right it’s the truth: we have so much to be proud of.
And that pride is something we can’t lose sight of – especially as our opponents peddle the most loathsome shame I’ve seen in a generation.
One thing we’re proud of is our candidate for governor – Senator Wendy Davis.
We’re proud of everything she accomplished last year – and all those years before. We were proud to stand with her before, and we’re proud to stand with her now.
Her record, her strength, her positions on the issues of our time (by the way, she’s willing to tell you her positions), and her understanding of how we can make Texas even greater is why we’re proud.
And I can just say it: Let’s get on with the discussion of how to make Texas even greater!
Senator Davis says all the time that her story isn’t unique. Well neither, I’m sorry to say, is the unfairness she’s faced.
Because it’s the same unfairness that leads budget writers to slash funding for women’s health, even when there’s a Rainy Day Fund that could help pay for it.
It’s the unfairness that shuts down essential women’s health clinics to make a political point, no matter the costs to this state, its budget or its women.
It’s the injustice that allows a lame-duck Governor to veto a bill that has – or that should have, anyway – an obvious, universal goal: to ensure that women can pursue equal pay for equal work under state law.
And it’s the injustice led Senator Van De Putte to make the parliamentary inquiry heard ’round the world: “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?”
As you all know so well, this injustice reaches deep into the lives of all middle-class Texans.
It afflicts our kids when they sit down in an overcrowded classroom.
It wears out working parents who can’t find health coverage for themselves or their kids.
It hurts small business owners who pay tax bills without the incentives, exemptions and abatements that big corporations get.
And it plagues our democracy when deals are cut and games are rigged in back rooms that our citizens never see.
Every single day, Texas Democrats fight this injustice. I’m deeply, profoundly proud of that fight. And I’m so proud of Senator Davis and Senator Van De Putte – I’m proud to support them, and I’m proud they’re here tonight – because they’re taking this righteous fight across Texas.
My friends, we love Texas. From the hills and plains rolling out west, to the fields and forests to the east. From the cities, to the ranches, to the suburbs with names that sound like ranches.
We love this great state.
We also know that Texas can be even greater.
We know Texas can do a better job educating its children – investing in our classrooms and teachers to prepare future generations of leaders, executives and entrepreneurs.
It’s wrong – and I know we all believe it’s wrong – that our state’s attorney general is in court right now, defending an inequitable, inadequate school finance system against the very districts that are fighting the system itself to teach kids all they know to succeed in the 21st century.
We know Texas can do more to keep people healthy – by, in the very short term, swallowing outrageous political dogma and accepting the millions and millions of federal dollars that are available right now to expand our state’s woefully inadequate Medicaid system.
Texas can do better assuring a future infrastructure worthy of our children and grandchildren. A 21st century state this great, with this many resources, shouldn’t be reverting to the gravel roads of yesterday. Or have people unable to move from place to place, stuck in traffic. Or be thirsting for the water that will determine our quality of life because we failed and refused to invest or really plan.
Kids in high school and college today shouldn’t be among the first generation of Texans who don’t inherit the infrastructure they need to enjoy a prosperous Texas.
We know Texas can be even greater by building a better, stronger economy – one that values the mom-and-pop small business just as much as the multinational corporation. An economy that’s every bit as focused on 21st century wind and solar power as it is on 20th century oil and gas. One that creates real jobs for real people, spreading free-market prosperity through families and neighborhoods through nothing more than a fair wage for an honest day’s work.
And we know that Texas can be even greater by being more open, more honest, and more accountable than it has been under this Perry-Dewhurst-Abbott regime. Texans deserve better than insider deals, special-interest tax breaks, and favors for political cronies. They deserve more than so-called leaders who turn taxpayer programs into their own piggy banks, using them to favor friends and reward donors.
Texans deserve more. Texans deserve better. Texans deserve to have Wendy Davis and Leticia Van De Putte at the helm of state government this November.
Because Texas can be even greater … but only if it elects leaders who actually will lead to that greatness.
That’s what’s so important about your presence here tonight. By being here, by supporting this cause, you’re helping a new group of leaders – in Central Texas and across the state – who can and will do better for the people of Texas.
Leaders who will ensure that every voice is heard.
Leaders who will fight the tough fights, instilling new leadership where it’s wanted and needed.
Leaders who will make sure that every Texan can tap the promise and the opportunity that make Texas great.