Following up on my last post about Texas women Dems, I’d like to highlight several current office holders. Given the focus these days on leaders who can create jobs, it seems fitting to start with Houston mayor Annise Parker. Parker, first elected in 2009, spent much of her first two-year term focused on city services and the redistricting of the city council, but she ran for re-election in 2011 with an explicit campaign focus on “jobs and a stronger economy.” This was a smart move, given that Houston, the nation’s fourth largest city, has received significant national attention this year for its strength in this area. In May, Forbes named Houston the #2 city in the nation for job growth – second only to my hometown Austin J – and #3 in the nation for green job growth. Houston also snagged the #1 spot on Forbes’ July list of coolest cities; its job opportunities, combined with its “strong theater scene, world-class museums, and multicultural, zoning-free mashup of a streetscape,” were cited as justifying the top ranking. (See a great clip here of Mayor Parker discussing jobs and other issues on the Colbert Report.)
Another impressive leader I’ve learned about this summer is Leticia Van De Putte, a state senator representing the San Antonio area. Van de Putte has been a champion of reform for the state welfare and healthcare systems and the Texas juvenile code. This year, moreover, she has gained attention for her authorship of legislation to combat human trafficking and her support for veterans’ hiring. (For more on the latter, see this recent White House blog post.) A prominent Texas Latina, she has served as president of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators and received the Matt Garcia Public Service Award from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
A third impressive Texas Dem I’ve discovered recently is Wendy Davis, a state senator from Fort Worth. Davis has a particularly moving personal story: At age nineteen, she was a single mother working to make ends meet when a co-worker dropped a brochure on her desk about a paralegal program at Tarrant County Community College. Davis decided to enroll in the program, and after two years she transferred to Texas Christian University. There she became the first person in her family to earn a college degree – not to mention graduating first in her class. She went on to become a practicing attorney and serve on the Forth Worth City Council, and in 2008, she was elected to the state senate in an upset victory over Republican incumbent Kenneth Brimer. Since then, she has been one of the state’s most steadfast progressives, particularly on issues like public education funding and justice for victims of sexual assault.
In conclusion, it’s worth noting at least two interesting things these women have in common. All have Harvard connections. (Davis was a 1993 graduate of Harvard Law School, Van de Putte a 1993 Kellogg Fellow at the Kennedy School, and Parker a 2005 participant in the HKS Senior Executives in State and Local Government Executive Education Program.) And all three have sparked speculation of runs for higher office. (Van de Putte considered a campaign for governor in 2010, and Davis and Parker now also appear to be contemplating the idea.) Texas can’t afford another two decades of Bush/Perry-style leadership, so for the sake of the state, I hope their political futures are bright.