Women are at the forefront of many of this year’s critical and most-watched races. From candidates for governorships making waves from red-to-blue states, to game-changing senate seats up for grabs, women are making their voices heard now more than ever. Pivotal issues, including equal pay for women, health care, and campus sexual assault are front and center in Washington and statewide with women leading the charge. While the 113th Congress boasted 20 female senators – more than any other Congress to date, women still only make up 24.2% of state legislators in the U.S. With only a few months until the November midterm elections, it’s down to the wire for many candidates striving to change all that and bring a female perspective to the table.
To showcase a year of textbook races for women, msnbc introduces ’30 in 30,’ a new series where the 30 of the most dynamic women candidates seeking office in 2014 will be spotlighted: One a day over the next 30 days. The candidates – Democrat and Republican – have answered questions based on women’s issues and being a woman in a male-dominated industry. Welcome to Day 9!
Name: Wendy Davis
Party Affiliation: Democrat
Race: Texas Governor
Challenger: Republican Greg Abbott
Here’s the deal: Davis – elected to the state Senate in 2008 – made waves last June when she stood for nearly 12 hours on the Senate floor to filibuster an anti-abortion bill that shut down multiple abortion clinics across Texas. Davis has been a huge supporter of abortion rights throughout her campaign for governor – she is the target of infamous nickname “Abortion Barbie.” Davis trails Attorney General Greg Abbott by eight points in a recent poll -- the smallest gap in polling numbers so far – and has been in par with fundraising totals. Davis’s campaign released its first TV attack ad this month against her Republican opponent.
How has being a woman in a field dominated by men impacted your race so far?
Whether it is fighting for equal pay, fighting for women’s access to safe health care, or assuring that a backlog of rape kits in Texas was tested in order to find and jail rapists, I’m proud to be an elected official who has fought for issues that have a unique impact on women and who has worked to create bipartisan support for those efforts from both men and women.
While I think it’s important to have people in elected office who represent unique perspectives, the common interests of Texans cross lines of gender, race and income. I am proud of my work on behalf of all hardworking Texans – regardless of gender, race or age.
What will you bring to the Governorship that your opponent can’t?
I believe that our life experiences shape the values that we bring forward as elected officials. The Texas I grew up in delivered on its promise to me that if I would work hard, I could become anything I dreamed. That’s the way it should be. As Governor, I will ensure that the same promise that was kept for me is kept for the generations to come. That’s why I fight for all Texans – regardless of age, race or gender.
On the other hand, my opponent, Greg Abbott, has demonstrated time and again that he favors political insiders and his donors at the expense of Texas families. For example, he sides with chemical companies and the payday lending industry who donate to his campaign rather than everyday Texans. That’s just wrong.
If elected, what will be your No. 1 priority?
I believe that every person should have the opportunity to become whatever he or she dreams of being. Because of that, education is my number one priority.
By ensuring that all Texans have access to the educational opportunities they deserve and that they have access to a 21st century education system, we create a stronger, more competitive Texas workforce.
What can we expect to see from your campaign this summer?
I’ll give you an example of one of my recent days campaigning in a state as large as Texas. I started in San Antonio in the morning, speaking about my plan to invest more in our schools so that children are better prepared for the future, and ended the day in El Paso to talk about creating good paying jobs, more than 550 miles and another time zone away.
And what I’ve been seeing at these events is the unprecedented grassroots movement in our campaign. More than 23,000 volunteers had made more than 2.2 million calls and knocked on more than 330,000 doors. As Election Day gets closer, I expect that enthusiasm will only continue to grow. Texans will have seen an unmatched level of involvement by voters to select between two very different candidates and two very different paths for the future of our state.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to young women looking to pursue a career in politics today?
As Lady Bird Johnson reminded us, “become so wrapped up in something that you forget to be afraid.”
Which women in politics inspire you?
Ann Richards and Barbara Jordan. They believed then, as I do now, that where you start doesn’t determine how far you can go in life. They believed in the power of each individual and worked hard to make individual dreams a reality.
How will you address unequal pay for working women?
People should get paid according to what they do, not who they are. Women in Texas get paid, on average, $8,000 less a year than men. I’m proud to have worked with my colleagues to pass a bill out of a Republican controlled Senate and House to help end the inequality that women are experiencing in the workplace.
Unfortunately, Governor Rick Perry vetoed that bill. My opponent, Greg Abbott has said that like Rick Perry, he would veto the Texas Equal Pay Act. However, what can you expect from someone who pays some of the women in his office approximately $6,000 less a year than men for doing the same job?
Check out msnbc’s Women of 2014 Twitter Trail to follow 2014 candidates to watch all in one place!