2024 Texas Democratic Convention: Education, abortion rights key to turning state blue

The key to turning Texas blue is protecting the public education system from school voucher laws and fighting for women's reproductive rights, state Democratic Party officials asserted at their convention in El Paso over the weekend.

Several prominent party leaders spoke at the Lady Bird Breakfast at the Hotel Paso del Norte on Saturday as the three-day Texas Democratic Convention came to a close. The breakfast was attended by more than 300 Texas Democrats.

U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, speaks during the Lady Bird Breakfast at the Texas Democratic Convention in El Paso on Saturday. "This country has pushed women to the brink, and we have to respond," she said.
U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, speaks during the Lady Bird Breakfast at the Texas Democratic Convention in El Paso on Saturday. "This country has pushed women to the brink, and we have to respond," she said.

"This election is going to be about, really in many respects, absolutely about fighting for our democracy," said U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso. "It's about trying to regain control over rampaged gun violence. It's about defeating fascism and totalitarianism. It is truly about fighting for our hard-earned rights. This country has pushed women to the brink, and we have to respond."

The Lady Bird Breakfast, named in honor of former first lady Claudia Alta "Lady Bird" Johnson, is aimed at highlighting Democratic female leaders and issues affecting women and families across the state. The panel discussion focused on education and reproductive rights.

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Speakers at the event were Escobar; former U.S. Undersecretary of the Air Force Gina Ortiz Jones; Texas House candidates Aicha Davis, Kristian Carranza and Lauren Ashley Simmons; and Asian American Democrats of Texas President Nabila Mansoor.

Texas Democrats prepare for school voucher fight

Texas Republicans' attempts to pass school voucher laws, which would allow parents to use tax dollars to send children to private schools, is an attack on the public school system, the panelists said.

"Everybody knows public education is truly under attack, and it is being used as a bargaining tool," said Davis, who is running for the state House to represent the Dallas area. "Top Republicans in Texas have shown how loyal they are to their party, not to their communities."

Davis is also a member of the State Board of Education.

Public schools have produced some of the best minds in the country, said Carranza, who is running to represent the San Antonio area in the state House.

"When we talk about taking away our public schools, we're also talking about our safety nets," Texas House candidate Kristian Carranza said at the breakfast.
"When we talk about taking away our public schools, we're also talking about our safety nets," Texas House candidate Kristian Carranza said at the breakfast.

"I'm the proud product of public schools in San Antonio," Carranza said. "I know that I wouldn't be who I am today if it weren't for public school education and the support they provide to our communities. San Antonio is a very working-class community, and we just had more elementary schools close just this past year.

"People in our community, women in our community, families in our community, don't just look at schools for education; we also look at them for safety nets. I'm talking about before-school programs, after-school programs, summer school programs and meal programs. When we talk about taking away our public schools, we're also talking about our safety nets."

Instead of enacting school vouchers, Texas lawmakers should work to provide more money for public schools and increase teacher pay, the panelists said.

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"Our governor (Greg Abbott) has been on tour like Taylor Swift for the past year, going to private school after private school, touting vouchers," said Simmons, who is running to represent the Houston area in the Texas House. "Then all of a sudden — and HISD (the Houston Independent School District) is not perfect, but HISD at the time was a B-rated district — and all of a sudden it's taken over by TEA (the Texas Education Agency), and we are stuck with a superintendent who was the CEO of a charter school network. We're talking about destroying, dismantling public education. HISD is the canary in the coal mine.

"Let me be clear: What they're doing to HISD is happening all over Texas. … We have to protect our school districts for the students and the teachers, and for our society. We cannot lose."

Defending reproductive rights

Democrats also sounded the alarm on Texas' strict laws restricting abortion and reproductive rights, the panelists said.

Texas' abortion ban allows physicians to terminate a pregnancy only when a pregnant patient's life is at risk or the patient could suffer substantial impairment of a major bodily function. The bans make no exception for rape, incest or fatal fetal diagnoses.

"One in 3 American women of childbearing age lives in a state with an abortion ban, a full ban," Escobar said. "We know that Republicans are not going to quit there. It's not about 1 in 3 women. It's about controlling 100% of women in America.

"It's about taking away not just our reproductive freedom, but our access to contraception, our access to IVF (in vitro fertilization), and we don't know what else is on their list of horrors when it comes to making women second-class citizens."

Panelists are introduced during the Lady Bird Breakfast on Saturday at the Texas Democratic Convention. The event is aimed at highlighting Democratic female leaders and issues affecting women and families across the state.
Panelists are introduced during the Lady Bird Breakfast on Saturday at the Texas Democratic Convention. The event is aimed at highlighting Democratic female leaders and issues affecting women and families across the state.

Decisions about women's health are being made by a Texas Legislature dominated by men, Carranza said.

"It's not lost on anyone that 70% of the state Legislature here in Texas are men," Carranza said. "There is an urgent need to elect more women.”

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For Texas and the U.S. to achieve what is best for the state and country, all voices must be heard, Jones said. She added that a majority of Americans and Texans "overwhelming support abortion access."

"I know that American leadership is indispensable and we are the most powerful, the most effective when everybody on the team is able to contribute to their full potential, and yes, that means women have to be able to make choices about their own bodies," Jones said.

This article originally appeared on El Paso Times: Will Texas turn blue? Democrats say education, abortion rights are key

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