Photo Credit: Courtesy of Grace Gilker

The Jefferson Davis statue on the South Mall was temporarily defaced by a blue-chalk “CHUMP,” with an arrow pointing up to Davis, scrawled on the statue’s base early Friday morning. It has since been removed. 

The statue has long been a source of controversy for the University because Davis was the president of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War.

SG Executive Alliance candidate Xavier Rotnofsky, a Plan II junior, said he and his running mate Plan II senior Rohit Mandalapu, made the removal of the Davis statue on the South Mall a major part of their platform. 

“I’m running for student body president with this satirical campaign, [but] we made it one of our platform points to remove the Jefferson Davis statue,” Rotnofsky said. “We said we want to take down the Jefferson Davis statue because it’s not okay that it’s still on campus.”

After University Democrats distributed a survey to all Student Government candidates asking about their stance on the statue’s presence, Executive Alliance candidates Braydon Jones, a government senior, and Kimia Dargahi, an international relations and global studies and Middle Eastern studies senior, said they also support the statue’s removal.

“Braydon and Kimia do not support the vandalism of university property, but we do understand that it represents a part of US history that is not inclusive and creates such a culture on the Forty Acres,” they said in a statement to The Daily Texan on Sunday. “As we have said, statues on campus represent a part of history, for better or for worse … Whether it is physical monuments or the intangible cultural climate present on the Forty Acres, we will continue to advocate for an inclusive campus.”

Executive Alliance candidate David Maly, an economics and journalism senior, said although he does not support graffiti in any situation, he also does not support the presence of Jefferson Davis on the South Mall.

“I think that it’s wrong for UT to celebrate the racist past of our nation,“ Maly said. “I don’t think graffiti is ever okay. But I think that displaying our nation’s racist past with a statue does put students in a difficult position. I don’t condone defaming public property ever, or support it.”

University Democrats communications director Ashley Alcantara, an international relations and global studies senior, said UDems included the question regarding the Davis statue to find out the Executive Alliance candidates’ opinions of the statue remaining on campus. 

“We were actually inspired by Rotnofsky and Mandalapu’s inclusion of the issue in their platform and wanted to know what all of the candidates’ positions were on the issue, as these statues are construed as offensive to many people,” Alcantara said.

Plan II freshman Grace Gilker said the graffiti pushed her to think critically about the statue’s presence.

“In terms of the word choices, it was so anachronistic — the people who graffitied it used chalk,” Gilker said. “They were smart protestors — not just hooligans with spray paint they were trying to make a statement.”

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Anika Agarwal and Sammy Minkowitz | Daily Texan Staff

The Election Supervisory Board suspended two Student Government candidates, University-wide representative candidate Anika Agarwal and Liberal Arts representative candidate Sammy Minkowitz, from campaigning for two days.

In a majority opinion, the Board concluded that Agarwal and Minkowitz violated the election code of “prohibited association” by showing support for other candidates. 

Graduate school representative candidate Katherine Jensen submitted a complaint to the Board, saying Agarwal solicited votes on behalf of Minkowitz via social media. In the complaint, Jensen said Agarwal’s support of Minkowitz on Facebook showed a clear collaboration between the two campaigns because Minkowitz did not “untag” herself in Agarwal’s endorsement photo in the two days following the original post.

“Sammy and Anika were kind of confused on whether they were associated,” Molina said. 

Agarwal said Minkowitz asked her to make her campaign photo Agarwal’s profile picture on Facebook, and Agarwal instead shared the photo on her Facebook wall. Agarwal said she did not consider her actions to be co-campaigning because she did not share the photo within her campaign page. 

“I didn’t really see it as co-campaigning,” Agarwal said. “It was a miscommunication and forgetting how open Facebook can be.”

Minkowitz said she had similar misunderstandings as to what co-campaigning meant. 

“I thought of co-campaigning as putting two candidates’ names on the same poster, two candidates speaking together or two candidates posting a campaign photo with both faces,” Minkowitz said. “I didn’t think I was co-campaigning, and nobody told me what I was doing wrong.”

Jensen also said Minkowitz showed public support for University-wide representative candidate Jonathan Dror. On Facebook, Minkowitz clicked that she was going to the event “Vote for Jonathan Dror,” and she also liked his Facebook page. The Board found that Dror was not in violation of the code.

According to the election code, candidates can not support other candidates unless the candidates are running together in an Executive Alliance campaign for Student Government president and vice president.  

“We take the prohibited association clause very seriously,” Board chair Nick Molina said. “We don’t want any students to get the idea that two candidates can run together.”

In their resolution, the Board said Agarwal was in direct violation of the election Code and Minkowitz received undue benefits from the prohibited association. Both candidates are suspended from campaigning between 7 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Monday. 

“Except in cases of a bona fide executive alliance as provided for in this code, no candidate is allowed to contribute financially or provide any other form of tangible support, including but not limited to campaign materials, to another candidate’s campaign,” the code says.

In addition to a temporary ban from campaigning, the Board required that Agarwal and Minkowitz no longer spend 10 percent of their total available campaign funds for their respective campaign races. University-wide representative candidates are allowed to spend $612, and college representative candidates may spend up to $408. 

“The way that I see it, it’s meant to not necessarily hurt the candidates. It’s meant to level the playing field,” Molina said. 

The two will be able to campaign again Monday night in time for the University-wide representative debate. 

Editor's Note: Jan Ross Piedad, the Moody College of Communication candidate, has written the following column on a topic of the her choosing relating to her campaign. She agreed to forgo print space.

In a recent job interview, I was asked to describe myself in three words. At the time, it felt like a moment of cosmic karma. I had asked the same confusing, oddly personal query to my fellow colleagues about a year ago while working at the University Interscholastic League, featuring students assistants across all departments and backgrounds. Thoughtful expressions and a brainstorming session tended to follow, but I didn’t have the same luxury when put on the spot this time. Here’s where I eventually arrived: hardworking, flexible and visionary.

This season of campus-wide elections, I am on the ballot to represent the Moody College of Communication on the Texas Student Media Board of Operation Trustees and it is my heartfelt belief that the same qualities will embolden success for the position. As a third-year journalism major, student life isn’t just about assessments and the next student organization meeting, there’s stories and group projects too. It’s a personal truth that I work much harder and better when the effort is for a group, when the product is a direct reflection of more than just me.

Whether it stands for three people, five TSM properties, all of the University and beyond, I will commit to benefit the many. My flexibility in what I am able to do as a multimedia journalist, as well what I am willing to do as a leader, are assets to the responsibility of representing the diverse departments of the Moody College. Visionary is less of a prophecy but more of a purpose. Last summer, I was the sole student representing the University at the Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change, a three week seminar with students, professors and media professionals belonging to all parts of the world. From the experience, I grew to appreciate the gift of education and an understanding for media literacy: the practice of analyzing, evaluating and creating messages through an assortment of mediums for a critical and culturally competent outcome. Media literacy is lifelong discipline and I believe the practice is where the future of these media entities can be.

My greatest connections to TSM are my two semesters on The Daily Texan editorial staff and three years volunteering for Texas Student Television. Now working primarily on social media for Good Morning Texas, I see the potential we have to connect as a community. There’s a need to recognize that yes, we do have a radio station, TV studio and satirical publication working right here on campus. And you can join as well. Promotional efforts are one a few things I will work to address during my term, along with greater interconnectedness between the five entities and appeals for updated equipment. Because yes, I work with those cameras, soundboards and computers too.

Service is at the center of my values and it is my deepest hope that I could be of help to a greater cause. In the past few years, I have been involved with a variety non-profit organizations for a range of purposes, from college scholarships to child advocacy to hosting globally-focused events. One similarity between all these efforts is effective communication, and everyone needs a little more of that in our lives. The special thing about TSM properties is the long-standing tradition of student expression across print, radio and television, documenting the UT Austin community daily. It is important to uphold this legacy to create a more inclusive, creative campus through TSM properties: The Texas Travesty, Cactus Yearbook, KVRX, Texas Student Television, and The Daily Texan.

Photo Credit: Jenna VonHofe | Daily Texan Staff

With early voting underway in the first Austin City Council election under its 10-ONE structure, many student neighborhoods — such as West Campus and Hyde Park — are located in District 9, but Riverside also has a notable student population located in District 3, where 12 candidates are vying for its seat.

Under 10-ONE, which divides the city into 10 geographic districts, District 3 covers parts of East Austin and Riverside. Among the 12 candidates running for the seat, two, who are related, Susana Almanza and Sabino “Pio” Renteria, did not respond to The Daily Texan before press time.

With District 3 boasting the largest amount of candidates in a City Council race among the 10 districts, candidate Kent Phillips said campaign tension has been relatively low.

“I think there are many of us who do play nice, and many who have had no problem getting their hands a little dirty,” said Phillips, who works as a pharmacy technician. “There have been some ethics questions about properly putting the paid-for signs [and] things of that nature. A lot of candidates have not been afraid to push people around, and there is a brother and sister in the race, which highlights the possible family conflict there.”

Phillips said Almanza and Renteria, who have both served on city boards and commissions, have garnered a good amount of support.

During her campaign, Almanza said she wants to raise the local minimum wage.

“I would work for establishing a living wage of $15 an hour,” Almanza said at a candidate forum in September. “That’s very important and that would take thousands of people out of poverty.”

Phillips, who has previously ran for Texas Senate and House seats as a Libertarian, said he does not think she would be able to do so if elected to the Council.

“They certainly have their followings as voters go,” Phillips said. “I put them most up there in probabilities of winning this election. There is certainly a tension there and things which I agree with Ms. Almanza and Pio and things I would not. I don’t like there being lies being used to get votes.”

According to Shaun Ireland, who ran for a council seat in 2012, other than a few missing yard signs, the race has been going smoothly. 

“It’s been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done,” Ireland said. “I’ve been knocking on doors since May. Most of my action plan comes from talking to average people on buses or in stores.”

Ireland stressed that he was running to represent all of District 3.

“We have a lot of candidates who are mainly interested in Montopolis and Cesar Chavez area,” Ireland said.

Candidate Julian Limon Fernandez said he was asked to run by the four farms of the East Austin Urban Farms, which grow organic vegetables, raise chickens and sell to local restaurants. Fernandez said Almanza has been calling for putting affordable housing on those properties.

“It shouldn’t even be an issue because there is plenty of property that the city owns in District 3 that can be used and never has been used for affordable housing,” Fernandez said. “How can someone come and tell me to move my home because I live on a corner and have two lots and sell my property to have affordable housing? You can’t bully people.”

The demographics of District 3 make it one of the most diverse in Austin, with Hispanics making up 60 percent of the district. Fernandez said while the Hispanic population dominates the demographics of District 3, their voter turnout is much lower than the white population.

“If you look at the voting, 20 percent  of Hispanics vote,” Fernandez said. “In the Govalle neighborhood, 60 percent Anglos voted [while] less than 30 percent voted of the Hispanics. There’s a lot more of us here, but less of them vote.”

Other candidates in the race include paramedic Mario Cantu, graduate student Christopher Hoerster, ACC professor Fred McGhee, teacher Ricardo Turullols-Bonilla, attorney Jose Valera and former council candidates Jose Quintero and Eric Rangel.

Austin mayoral candidates debate issues concerning the city Wednesday evening in a forum at the Belo Center for New Media.

Photo Credit: Jenna VonHofe | Daily Texan Staff

Six Austin mayoral candidates debated issues, such as water conservation, transportation and emergency protocol, at an on-campus event Wednesday night.

The forum, hosted by KUT at the Belo Center for New Media as part of its “Ballot Boxing” series, was limited to candidates with a website.

The candidates discussed the low water supply in Lake Travis and Lake Buchanan. Candidate Randall Stephens said there was a simple solution to address Austin’s water crisis: Quit wasting water.

“We need to make sure we address our infrastructure needs and that we’re not losing water through leaking or breaking pipes,” Stephens said. “We need to move to a southwestern mode of landscaping. We need to make smart choices and inspire other Austinites to work with us and conserve water — not waste water.”

Current Austin City Council member Mike Martinez said conservation was most important in solving Austin’s decreasing water supply.

“Our community has embraced conservation like no one would ever would,” Martinez said. “The first thing we need to do is implement a rule that everyone drawing from the same source needs to abide by the same conservation methods.”

If Proposition 1, which allocates bond money toward an urban rail line, fails on the ballot, Martinez said that would not affect the efficiency or purpose of City Council.

“On Nov. 5, we have to go back to work, dealing with the gridlock and congestion we face,” Martinez said. “We go back to adding bus rapid transit lines and working on road infrastructure. We don’t have an option to sit and not do anything. I realize it’s ultimately up to the voters. If that means adding more bus lines, Capital Metro is capable of handling that next step.”

Candidate David Orshalick referred back to his six-step plan to save Austin, including three tenets, he said, are directed toward Austin’s transportation problem.

“We currently don’t do very good transportation planning,” Orshalick said. “It is amazing to me that I-35 is failing, and we have no plans to fix it.”

Orshalick also said the decreasing African-American population in Austin is exacerbated by the city’s rapid growth and gentrification.

“We have a critical mass of African-Americans in Austin that is missing,” Orshalick said. “We have a very small African-American population; other cities have a much larger population. We need to grow jobs internally and focus on more than just high tech.”

Cole said maintaining equal quality of life for everyone was crucial for keeping African-Americans in Austin.

“I think many African-Americans are leaving in concern for the opportunities for their children, educational opportunities [and] economic opportunities,” Cole said.

The candidates spoke about how they would deal with a health crisis in Austin in light of the third diagnosis of Ebola in Dallas. Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole said she would ask for help from experts and emphasized the importance of communicating with Austin residents.

“I think it would be central to the mayor’s job to make sure we are having communication with the public and collaboration with governmental entities,” Cole said. “I would make a call immediately to other cities who have faced this crisis to see what they have done and what they would recommend and stay in constant contact with federal authorities.”

According to candidate Steve Adler, a mayor’s job is to rally and support the public.

“If something happened in the city, there is a pre-existing protocol to deal with it, and the mayor needs to make sure it’s being implemented,” Adler said. “It would be his responsibility to communicate with the public because the lack of knowledge can create fear and panic. I would probably also say a prayer.”

Erin McGann discusses her platform for the upcoming City Council elections in an interview with The Daily Texan. McGann is the only person running for the District 9 seat who has not already held a City Council position.

Photo Credit: Stephanie Tacy | Daily Texan Staff

Erin McGann, candidate for the Austin City Council’s District 9 seat, sat down with The Daily Texan to discuss her plans should she be elected. This year’s city election is the first under the Council’s 10-ONE structure, in which each council member will represent one of 10 geographic districts in the city. District 9 covers most of the UT campus, West Campus, North Campus, Hyde Park, downtown Austin and South Congress. McGann currently works at the Texas Department of Justice as a program supervisor for the Community and Veterans Reentry Program. She is the only candidate running for the District 9 seat who has not previously served on City Council before. The interview is the second in a series of three with the District 9 candidates. 

The Daily Texan: How do you feel about the new 10-ONE system that is going into effect with this election, especially since, if you are elected, there would be an entirely new council?

Erin McGann: I am looking forward to a spanking new system. Every single one of us running feels the weight of making this work. We all talk about this. This is momentous. We all feel like we have to work incredibly hard and make sure we are working together and considering the whole city when we talk about our own districts, and we need to make sure everything is running well, and we’re communicating well. Everybody has expressed absolute commitment to making sure the 10-ONE system works, and the whole city is represented and their district is too. All of us have felt a little disenfranchised with the way things are running in the city. You do get lost in the noise with the at-large system. Those with the most money get heard. With the new system, it’s going to be really great.


DT: What have you enjoyed about the race so far?

EM: This has been the most incredible learning experience. If I did this again, I would study for two years for this five-month test. I’ve met some of the most involved, smartest people. People in Austin are amazingly passionate about what they want and what they don’t want. To me, this isn’t a career. I’m not looking at a legacy, I’m not looking at what people will think of my name. I’m looking to make Austin better for those who live here.

DT: How will you involve students in your policy-making if you are elected?

EM: I have an open-door policy and a one-business-day response policy. Those are my personal policies but also my current work policies. If you have a question, I will call you back or respond to your email. I intend to have hours outside of eight-to-five, and I intend to do those out in the community. I would have to rely on the campus to get information out, but I would do things like go to the library on the second Wednesday of every month. 


DT: Are you concerned about student turnout this election?

EM: Someone told me in the last May election, 35 students voted. The last big election we had, thousands of students voted because that was the Obama and gubernatorial election, and it was big. But that is really indicative that students don’t feel they need to be involved with city politics. Right now, it’s the most important time to be involved in city politics. Students are the “sleeping giant” that people are trying to poke and wake up. You can sway the election. The students hold a huge amount of power, and I don’t know if they are fully aware of how much power they have, especially in city elections. I’ll be fascinated to see how many people vote. It’s an insanely small number of people who vote.


DT: You have spoken out against Proposition 1, also known as the urban rail plan. Why are you against it?

EM: The urban rail is too expensive, and the route is really bad. Whatever the last time was when we voted on this, it was a great route. But, it was voted down, and it was less expensive. This route being set up is certainly not going to reduce any traffic because traffic doesn’t run from Highland Mall to the Riverside ACC campus. It also is not going to address our most used areas of transportation. We’re going to get at least 10 years of traffic with construction. Government projects don’t come in under time and under budget. It’s going to take more than $3.1 billion when we finish it. 


DT: What other issues are you passionate about?

EM: I really strongly believe that we need to change the ordinance that they’re calling the “stealth dorm ordinance.” I was disappointed to hear that passed; it puts entirely too much burden on students and lower-income people.I understand neighbors’ objections, but those can usually be addressed by a call to 211 or talking to a landlord. I think having a blanket law puts a lot of pressure on people who can’t afford to live in a more spacious manner. Building things like micro-units downtown aren’t going to alleviate it. Those will still be very expensive. If we’re not going to have lower income housing for people who need it, then we have to allow people to live together.


DT: What specific topics would you focus on as a City Council member?

EM: I could go and cut $30 million from the budget tomorrow. We’ve got all these jobs that float from year to year that aren’t filled but funded. 10 percent of the jobs of Austin are unfilled each year. We fund them in the budget. The budget is $35 billion, and an “x” amount is for the salaries of those jobs. The money is still there just in case we fill them, but we don’t.When we get to the end of the year, we can spend it on whatever we want. We can cut that right out and reduce the budget by that much. 


DT: Are there any issues that set you apart from your opponents?

EM: Short term rentals. If you rent out your house or room at all, you have to apply with the city for a short-term rental certificate. I think it’s $265 to do that. I have to pass an inspection. I have to show them paperwork, and they have to make sure I have no open permits, and then they send a letter to my neighbors. Only 3 percent in a neighborhood can be allowed to do this at a time. And then you have to pay a hotel tax. But, it’s a stupid law. I think we keep adding stupid laws.

Some answers in this interview have been edited for brevity and clarity. 

Less than 24 hours after a mediocre performance in the Rio Grande gubernatorial debate, state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, appeared in Austin ready to re-enter the political wringer. “I’ve always been an eternal optimist,” she assured her audience on Saturday. “And I’m here to tell you today: I’m not going to lose this election.” Though Davis played her part flawlessly as the brazen, empathetic trailblazer in her speech on Saturday evening, voters cannot help but wonder — after failing to gain headway against her opponent on Friday, and continuing to struggle by a double-digit margin in recent polls — are the odds stacked too high for this underdog candidate to make the comeback she so desperately needs?

Davis was awkward and accusatory in Friday’s debate and failed to deliver the political knockout that many had hoped for. The Democratic senator would have done well to move past the offensive, but her arguments failed to generate traction as she circled back repeatedly to critiques of Abbott’s “insider friends.” She remained in attack mode when she should have given Abbott space to fumble; she was brash and argumentative when she should have treaded lightly. As the winning candidate, Abbott had everything to lose — but Davis’ heavy-handed attempts failed to even knock him off script.  

And the latest statistics are difficult to ignore. Abbott has held a significantly commanding lead, averaging at least a 12-point lead above Davis throughout most of the election. These are inauspicious numbers to a campaign in its beginnings, and they are downright ominous as the election draws near.

Davis is certainly making every effort to pull out the necessary stops — even releasing a biography of personal information in order to bolster her narrative — but her efforts in the political arena seem to be falling short. And when you compare her with Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who has pocketed both popular party affiliation and endorsement of the current governor, well, Davis certainly has her work cut out for her.

"Abbott would have to make a colossal blunder to lose this race,” agrees Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha, political scientist at the University of North Texas.

Throughout her political career, Davis has crafted a narrative of underdog success. Though her battle against HB 2 was ultimately thwarted, it was the “filibuster heard ‘round the world” and gave resonance of a political hero in the making — if not in Texas, than certainly in more liberal states. Her angle has been one of “fighting the power,” of paving a new trail and protesting the system.

But perhaps these radical promises that set Davis aside as a candidate are also the things that may cost her the race in Texas. And while her confidence, despite the odds, is endearing, the Democratic candidate would do well to focus less on the charm and more on the chasm — for this gubernatorial nominee certainly has a long road ahead.

Deppisch is a government senior from League City.

State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, begins her filibuster of Senate Bill 5, the original bill that led to House Bill 2, on June 25, 2013.

Photo Credit: Guillermo Hernandez | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s Note: In state Sen. Wendy Davis’ (D-Fort Worth) memoir, released Tuesday, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate discusses her personal experiences with abortion in the ‘90s. Below, a Daily Texan columnist debates the merits of that decision and analyzes its implications. This is the third part of a weekly Point/Counterpoint series. To see the opposing viewpoint, click here.   

It’s been a little more than a year since the sneaker-clad state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, sent shockwaves throughout the nation with her 13-hour filibuster to safeguard women’s abortion rights. Now, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Davis has made headlines once again with her memoir “Forgetting to Be Afraid,” in which she divulges little-known information that has perhaps been the driving force behind her views regarding reproductive freedom: The senator has terminated two pregnancies of her own.

Though abortion is never a completely binary decision, it’s important to note that both pregnancies were relatively atypical and heralded high-risk factors for both Davis and child. One abortion was an emergency end to an ectopic pregnancy — a procedure that is less choice than life-saving medical necessity for the mother. The second terminated pregnancy was a daughter, for whom Davis and her then-husband had already picked out a name: Tate Elise. When doctors discovered the baby would be born with severe brain abnormalities and would likely never progress beyond a vegetative state, Davis was forced to make a paralyzing and heartbreaking choice.

“The baby began to tremble violently, as if someone were applying an electric shock to her in the womb,” writes Davis, describing the suffering her child was experiencing even before birth. “We knew the best thing we could do for our baby was to say goodbye.”

In the wake of such a personal revelation, it is easy to get swept away in swollen-heart declarations of support and admiration for Davis, who dared to pioneer a cause and then step bravely out from behind the curtain to reveal her own personal stake in the matter. It can be tempting to dive headfirst into sentimental anecdotes and throw strategy to the wayside in unwavering support of a cause or a story.

But that would be giving Davis far too little credit.

Let me be clear: This is not about a senator’s choice to have — or not have — an abortion. This is about a timely release of information in order to aid a campaign.

Does Davis have a right to disclose the information? Absolutely. But did she do it free from underlying party agenda? Unlikely. The memoir’s release — and its trove of secrets trumpeted within — fall within months of November’s gubernatorial election, sure to keep Davis’ reputation as a pioneer for women’s rights fresh in the hearts and minds of Texans everywhere. It was a calculated risk; those vehemently opposed to abortion could look pejoratively upon Davis’ second pregnancy termination, but many voters have expressed only empathy to Davis for her incalculable loss.

The power of a story carries extreme political currency. It adds roots where only facts existed before; it sets the speaker on a level that seems somewhat above reproach. Like any good candidate, Davis is using her past to throw out a cleverly disguised gauntlet that she knows will resonate with voters.

At the heart of all her pink-shoed, rags-to-riches glory, Davis is a politician. She is ambitious and shrewd — she wouldn’t have earned a spot in this race if she were anything else.

More than ever, she knows it is time to pull out the big guns. The latest polls are somewhat grim, placing the senator a whopping 12 points behind Republican candidate Greg Abbott. Though Davis continues to press on with the strength and dexterity necessary for any Democrat to persevere in the Texas Legislature, it cannot go without saying that the bulk of her fame stems from her work for reproductive freedom. A year ago, an overwhelming number of Texans “stood with Davis.” Now, struggling to rally voters around her initiatives on education and equal pay, Davis is retreating to familiar territory.

More than anything, Davis knows the power of getting personal. Her “narrative” as a senator is a rare breed of feminine heroism, one which strikes with both empathy and ambition, and it is through the ingeniously crafted public relations machine around her that Wendy has appealed to poverty-level voters and pundits alike. She is quick to reference her own humble beginnings and speaks frequently of the adversity she faced as a self-supporting student at Harvard Law School. Davis knows this is the forum in which she shines. If anything can help this underdog candidate stand a fighting chance in the race, this last-ditch ploy for empathy will be it.

The stakes are high in Texas, and with Davis lagging behind in recent polls, the gubernatorial candidate is doing for her narrative what politicians do best: picking up the pen and writing it herself.

Deppisch is a government senior from League City.

Mayoral candidate Todd Phelps discusses his position during a debate at the South Lamar Alamo Drafthouse. The sold-out event, hosted by United Way for Greater Austin, was centered around discussion of affordability and education.

Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

Five Austin mayoral candidates met Wednesday at the Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar Boulevard to talk about affordability and early childhood education.

The event, hosted by United Way for Greater Austin, sold out the theater in which the debate was held, prompting the organizers to open a second theater livestreaming the debate.

During the candidates’ discussion on affordability, candidate Todd Phelps said he thinks everyone should be able to live in Central Texas and that tax initiatives should help long-term residents who need relief. 

“We need to give them relief, and lobby state government and anticipate property value raises and protect people in that zone,” Phelps said. “Another way would be to not support initiatives and bonds that would push them out of town just because they would not be able to afford tax increases, and that’s what we’re looking right now at the rail bond tax.”

Council Member Mike Martinez said he worked to help Austin become more affordable by holding down property taxes through City Council.

“We [have been] doing everything we can over the last four years to lower or hold your tax rate flat,” Martinez said. “Providing that upward mobility ensuring that the entry-level position is not the only one you stay in when you enter the workforce. I’ll continue to push for a higher living wage than $11 per hour.”

Candidate Steve Adler criticized some of the current City Council's spending decisions and said they have had a negative impact on Austin's affordability.

"What have the incumbents done to make your life more affordable?" Adler said. "The middle class needs someone that will actually champion their cause."

The candidates’ discussion also focused on providing early childhood education opportunities. Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole said child care is important to Austin infrastructure, citing her role as a mother and previous PTA member.

“I always say I went to City Council for rest because I have three boys,” Cole said. “I believe in child care because not only for economic development but for purely your sanity.”  

Cole said she has advocated for child care before, while working to promote equal pay for women so they can afford their own child care.

Martinez agreed with providing early educational opportunities and child care.

“We don’t create dropouts in their teenage years; we create them at the age of 4 by not providing that early childhood education,” Martinez said. “It is our responsibility as a community to understand that impact and issue that we face.”

Candidate Randall Stephens supported the idea of pre-kindergarten programs and after-school programs being supplemented by funding from tax-exempt organizations.

“I believe in a safe place after school and where a child can find a tutor, but, if the city can’t pay for that tutor, the tax-exempt organizations can,” Stevens said. “Austin is a city on the move, and by supporting our children we’re protecting the great nature and soul of the city.”

Phelps said he supports after-school programs — if there are sufficient funds.

“I think we need to make sure the money is there by not wasting money on frivolous things like the water treatment plan and bonds that don’t make sense,” Phelps said.

The November mayoral election is the first under the city’s new 10-ONE plan, which reformats City Council into 10 district representatives with one citywide, elected mayor.

Texas Sen.Wendy Davis speaks to supporters at a rally celebrating the one year anniversary of her filibuster of SB 5. 

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

One year after state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, delayed a vote on an anti-abortion bill with an 11-hour filibuster, a large crowd filled the Palmer Events Center on Wednesday as Democratic gubernatorial candidate Davis and state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio and Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, talked about their top priority to include the voices of all Texans in the legislature.

“We will do these things because it’s both right and necessary,” Davis said. “We’ve got more work to do, more steps to take, a few more mountains to climb as we face the challenge of building the 21st century economy of this beautiful state, and as we do face those challenges.”

Davis’ filibuster did not ultimately stop the Texas Legislature from banning abortions 20 weeks after conception and regulating other aspects of abortion, but it did  delay the bill's passage. During the last minutes of the session, Van de Putte raised a parliamentary inquiry that many say set off 10 minutes of cheering, screaming and clapping from the gallery, delaying the vote. Van de Putte asked, "At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?”

At the event, Van de Putte said even after the demonstration last year, the legislature does not understand the wants of Texas women.

“We sent a clear message to our state and to our nation … that women would just no longer tolerate not being valued, not being listened to. That we would no longer tolerate their lack of trust to make personal decisions in our own lives,” Van de Putte said.

Both Davis and Van de Putte are trailing behind their Republican opponents, according to the most recent UT/Texas Tribune poll numbers. Attorney General Greg Abbott is 12 points ahead of Davis in the gubernatorial race, and state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, is 15 points ahead of Van de Putte.

History senior Max Patterson, president of University Democrats and who has worked Students for Wendy, an on-campus student organization, said he thinks the state needs new leadership.

“Whenever we register somebody to vote, we gauge their support of Wendy Davis, talk to them a little bit about the path that Texas is going on with the current Republican leadership and the one that we would like to see [Texas] going on with more progressive leadership in the state capitol," Patterson said.

Patterson said he is excited about bringing the campaign to campus.

“It’s going to be a really fun campaign, but it’s also going to be a really important one for our community, for the whole state, because it’s really a very distinct choice that’s going to be made for the direction of our state,” Patterson said.

Correction: Due to an editing error, this story incorrectly reported Davis' filibuster was 13 hours long. It was in fact 11 hours long.