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Wendy Davis To Women: 'We Don't Iron The Pants ... We Wear Them'

Alyssa Banta
Texas Tribune
Leticia Van de Putte, left, and Wendy Davis, greeted the crowds at the Texas Democratic Convention in Dallas over the weekend.

The candidates at the top of the Texas Democratic ticket are back on the campaign trail Monday after pumping up party members at their state convention in Dallas over the weekend.

On Friday night, Wendy Davis, the candidate for governor, and Leticia Van de Putte, the lieutenant governor nominee, rocked the house with speeches that hit on central themes, including an appeal to women.

For the first time in Texas, both candidates at the top of a party ticket are female.

As they rallied thousands of sign-waving supporters during their convention speeches, Davis and Van de Putte cast their opponents as tone deaf on a lot of issues, including those important to women.

Davis claimed Republican opponent Greg Abbott is stuck in the past. In one of the most memorable lines in her speech, Davis cited Abbott’s promise to veto legislation as governor that would make it easier for women to sue for equal pay in Texas state courts.

“When Mr. Abbott says he’d veto equal the Texas Equal Pay Act he’s trying to take us back to yesterday. Women can go to college now. We can vote now. And we don’t iron the pants anymore, we wear them,” she said to applause.

Van de Putte labeled Republican opponent Dan Patrick as disrespectful for being one of the only state senators who voted against the equal pay bill.  Then the mother of six referred to Patrick’s bill that requires a doctor to provide a sonogram before a woman can have an abortion.

“And when he insists he knows everything about the most personal decisions that women can make that’s not respecting women and that’s not putting Texas first,” Van de Putte said.

On those issues, Abbott and Patrick have said women already have legal options to gain equal pay. Both have supported increasing restrictions on clinics that perform abortions. They don’t think their records hurt them with most female voters. 

Some Democratic women at the convention, however, believe the tide is turning.

“They’ve never had a child in their lives so how can they sit up there on a throne and decide what I should do with my body,” said Gloria Gonzalez of Victoria. 

She’s still angry about legislation that closed some women’s clinics that also provide abortions. So is Samantha Scott from Trinity County.

“Birth control access is a big one for me; reproductive freedom is the other big one,” Scott said. 

Cheryl Pollman, a Dallas Democrat, sees women’s issues as being family issues.

“Women’s issues have been not only ignored but disrespected so long," Pollman said. "Education and the issue of gun violence in our state really propel me.” 

University of Texas polling concluded that a growing number of suburban women in Texas -- a key voting block -- may be turned off by the Republican Party’s march to the right and that could present an opportunity for Democrats. 

The polling found that between 2010 and 2013 the number of suburban women who identified themselves as Republican dropped from 50 to 38 percent. During that same period, the number of suburban women who identified as Democrats increased to 46 percent.

Suburban women are only one part of the electorate, of course, and in a state where Democrats haven’t won statewide for 20 years, it’s at best an uphill battle for Davis and Van de Putte.

Both candidates seem to believe, however, that if they hit the right notes with women, it could pay off in November.

Former KERA staffer Shelley Kofler was news director, managing editor and senior reporter. She is an award-winning reporter and television producer who previously served as the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.