|PHARR, March 2 - Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis wants leading women from the Rio Grande Valley to inform her on what really matters in the arenas of education, healthcare, particularly women’s health, and economic development.
So, on Saturday, Davis held two private roundtable discussions, one in Brownsville and one in Pharr, with two all-women panels. She said there were a dozen or more women at each event. After the event in Brownsville and before the one in Pharr, Davis gave an exclusive interview to the Guardian about what the roundtable discussions were all about and why they will play an important role in her campaign.
“Today we have gathered women leaders from around the Rio Grande Valley to talk about three specific areas, education, health, primarily women’s health care and economic development,” Davis said. “We have about a dozen here today and we did something similar this morning in Brownsville. We want to receive input from women who are experiencing day to day the successes but also the challenges we have in each of these arenas and inviting them to help us think through what the state needs to be doing to be a better partner.”
Asked what she learned from the discussions in Brownsville, Davis, a state senator from Fort Worth, focused on education, healthcare and empowering women.
“When you talk to communities around the state about the cuts to public education you hear different things about what the impacts were on their communities. What I heard this morning was that some of the programs that were really keeping kids engaged and excited about learning, like the UIL competitions, those things were cut,” Davis said, of the discussions on education.
“They also talked a lot about the need for early childhood education, that so many children are coming into the school systems who are Spanish-speaking only and who need the extra resources in order to get up to speed. They also talked about a really high dropout rate in 8th grade and that they are losing so many children who just don’t see that there is anything meaningful for them to stay in school.”
With regard to the discussions on healthcare, Davis said: “We talked about the cuts to women’s healthcare and what that has meant to this community; and that women have lost access to care. We talked about Medicaid Expansion and whether they believe that is something important in this community. They absolutely do. They want it very, very, much.”
With regard to the empowerment of women, Davis said: “We talked about the challenges of making sure that people who live here connect political decisions with what is not working, so that they will feel empowered to do something at the ballot box in order to make a difference. And that they understand they have the power to increase funding for their kids schools and to get Medicaid Expansion and receive better health care, if only they will participate in voting for someone who is going to help do those things for them.”
Asked how the roundtable discussions with the leading Valley women would help her campaign to become the third female governor of Texas, Davis said: “I try very hard, not only in my campaigning but also in my public service, to put a human face on what it is we are doing in the Texas Legislature. To hear up close and personal what the human impacts of our decisions are. These kinds of conversations inform me in that way and make it easier for me to give examples of why we ought to be doing some of the things that we ought to be doing.”
Editor's Note: Wendy Davis' likely opponent in the General Election, Republican Greg Abbott, will be at El Pato Restaurant in Edinburg next Thursday. The Guardian will interview Abbott for a story at that event.