Wendy Davis woos Texans at D.C. fundraiser

July 25, 2013

Thursday night, at Washington's Local 16 restaurant, the bar was flowing with requests for "The Wendy," a cocktail made with vodka, Triple Sec, Prosecco and lime, the "Filibustini," a gin and elderflower liquor concoction and a number of other signature cocktails. The occasion? Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis (D), who last month tried to block an abortion legislation by holding a filibuster for more than 11 hours, was in town for a sold-out fundraiser to address longtime Texan supporters and new fans.

"I can't tell you how honored I am to see so many Texans in D.C.," she said, standing in front of her state flag, to a cheering crowd.

Though Texas' recent anti-abortion bill was signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry (R), Davis, its main challenger, emerged a national hero. Her star status grew even after the Texas Senate debate partly because Perry recently announced he would not seek reelection. Though Davis has not committed to running for Perry's seat in 2014, she hinted once again at her gubernatorial ambitions.

"We share a tremendous belief in Texas and we embrace the wonderful opportunities and the responsibilities that come with being a Texan and being an American," she said. "That's why it's so important to look for new leaders in Texas."

Davis was introduced by longtime friend Rep. Marc Veasey (D-Tex.), who represents her district in the U.S. House of Representatives.

"For those of you familiar with Wendy Davis like I have been for a long time now, you know that her courageous stand comes as no surprise," Veasey opened. He emphasized Davis' past as a struggling single mother, her academic accomplishments at Texas Christian University and Harvard Law School and her legislative achievements on the Fort Worth City Council.

Other political supporters present included Texas Democrats Reps. Pete Gallego and Beto O'Rourke; Lone Star PAC founder Matt Angle who recruited Davis to run in 2008; and Fort Worth City Council member Joel Burns who took over Davis' City Council position when she won the state senate seat.

Since her filibuster against the abortion bill, Davis has become the new face for women's reproductive rights. Thursday's fundraiser was one of several efforts to capitalize on her overwhelming popularity. Though the event was targeted toward Texans, it drew a large crowd, many of whom were young, female and sporting pink, a nod to the hot pink running shoes Davis wore the night of her filibuster.

"It was inevitable that the nation would find out who she was," said Lisa Jones, a Texan in a bright-pink dress who works at an art auction house in the district.

"I'm just a huge fan," said Caleb Robinson, a law librarian at the Department of Labor who came in a pink striped bow tie. "I'm the oldest of seven kids with four younger sisters. It's important to have strong female role models to talk about women's rights."

As for a possible run for the Texas governorship by Davis, Jones and Robinson reiterated their support, as did many in the crowd.

"Run, Wendy, run!" several supporters yelled after she concluded her remarks.

Davis' newfound popularity and expertly timed visibility has translated to money in the bank. Though Thursday's fundraiser was relatively inexpensive compared to most in Washington, (the most expensive ticket was $250), Davis raised $933,000 in the last half of June and continues to ride a wave of momentum. Event organizers initially planned for 100 attendees, but the number of RSVPs were over three times their estimate.

Though she would not reveal the amount raised Thursday night, Davis spokeswoman Taylor McCarty said she was "pleased with the result."

Ruth Tam is a writer based in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter: @ruthetam.
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