Capitol’s ground floor needs more women

Posted Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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The question is not whether or where state Sen. Wendy Davis should run.

The question is when more women in both parties will run, and bring better representation for all Texans to the Capitol.

When women stormed the Capitol in June to argue both sides of a bill on abortion regulations, they found themselves looking down from the gallery onto House and Senate floors and seeing women outnumbered 3-to-1.

So far, only three women, all Republicans, appear to offer substantial campaigns for the 2014 statewide ticket in either party.

If women want to run Texas from the ground floor up, more must run.

Much of the national attention is focused on Davis, the Fort Worth Democrat who filibustered for hours against a bill restricting abortions, to either the joy or disappointment of the largest online viewing audience in Capitol history.

The mere hint that Davis might run for governor has given victory-starved Texas Democrats a lift, and her a platform for coast-to-coast appearances.

But part of that excitement comes simply because in three centuries of Texas history as an organized state or nation, only two women have been elected governor.

Davis should not be the only woman discussed for either statewide ticket.

In the Democratic Party, it was fellow state Sen. Leticia Van De Putte of San Antonio who left her father’s funeral and returned to the Capitol floor just in time to rally gallery cheers that extended the shelf life of Davis’ filibuster past the midnight expiration time of the special session.

Davis’ sudden stardom also may have partially eclipsed the long service of state Sen. Judith Zaffirini of Laredo, who has helped lead the state’s higher education effort and the development of both the University of Texas and Texas A&M systems into research giants.

Republicans have elected more women to the Legislature, and more should choose to seek statewide office.

The leading Republican women running statewide are state Rep. Stefani Carter of Dallas, for the Railroad Commission; former gubernatorial candidate Debra Medina of Wharton, running to succeed retiring Comptroller Susan Combs; and Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Cathy Cochran, expected to seek re-election.

One obvious potential statewide candidate is state Sen. Jane Nelson of Flower Mound, chair of the Senate committee that approved the new abortion regulations.

State Rep. Lois W. Kolkhorst of Brenham, a former TCU marketing official in Fort Worth, has built a reputation as a strong business conservative with the ability to unite factions.

State Rep. Myra Crownover of Denton is a go-to leader on energy issues, and state Rep. Diane Patrick of Arlington is a leader on education.

Mayors Annise Parker of Houston, a Democrat, and Betsy Price of Fort Worth, a Republican, serve in nonpartisan roles but could rise to state office.

The shortage of women lawmakers in Texas was recounted in a July 31 report published in the liberal Texas Observer, collecting cruel jokes and demeaning episodes on the Capitol floor.

Sometimes, women lawmakers on opposite political sides have risen together in protest over a crude cartoon or a nudie photo on a taxpayer-funded iPad.

This year, some men made catfight noises when Kolkhorst was debating a Democratic woman.

“This session has reminded me to look back and think about the real pioneers,” Kolkhorst told the Observer, mentioning former state Sen. and U.S. Rep. Barbara Jordan.

“Have I broken any glass ceilings for the women behind me? Have I made this world a little bit better for my daughter? … I’m not always sure I can answer that ‘yes.’”

This will take more than any one woman.

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