PHARR — State Sen. Wendy Davis continued her tour of the Texas-Mexico border Wednesday, meeting with educational leaders and supporters at restaurants in Mission and Pharr, her first public appearances in Hidalgo County since she announced her candidacy for governor last month.
“I will work harder than any candidate has ever worked for you,” the Fort Worth Democrat told a group of about 50 or 60 volunteers at Poncho’s Mexico Nuevo Restaurant in Pharr.
The group of volunteers – composed primarily of young people, although all age groups appeared to be represented – took a break from making phone calls to Rio Grande Valley voters when she entered the room shortly after 6 p.m.
A woman presented her with pink running shoes, which Davis then displayed to the cheering crowd. A man shouted: “Bienvenido al Valle!” — welcome to the Valley.
She spoke for about seven minutes, highlighting mostly issues she said were common throughout Texas, the Valley included. Staying away from specific policy proposals, she instead offered statements of vague support for education, veterans’ physical and mental health care and immigration reform.
The second-term state senator has made education a key part of her campaign in recent days, highlighted by a campaign event at the University of Texas at Brownsville on Tuesday. Earlier Wednesday, she attended an “education roundtable” at Diaz Diner in Mission with about a dozen educators who work in local K-12 schools and higher education institutions.
Davis also campaigned in Laredo and El Paso in the past week.
Though Davis didn’t mention women’s reproductive rights during her stump speech, a reporter asked her about a quote that appeared in Wednesday's Brownsville Herald, in which she called herself “pro-life” because she was devoted to improving lives. A campaign spokeswoman then interjected and said the comment was taken out of context.
“I will never distance myself from working to make sure that women are safe,” Davis added, affirming her support of abortion rights. “I respect women. I trust women to make good decisions for themselves if they’re empowered to do that.”
The only Democrat to announce a gubernatorial candidacy for 2014 was also confident the issue that made her a household name after an 11-hour filibuster this summer would not hurt her among anti-abortion Democrats, who are common among Rio Grande Valley voters.
“I don’t think most people are single-issue voters,” she said. “I’m certainly not a single-issue candidate.”
Prior to Wednesday, Davis said her previous trip to the Valley was to attend a December roast of one such pro-life Democrat, state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., though she said she’s visited as part of her responsibilities in the Texas Senate.
Following her speech and a brief question-and-answer session with reporters, Davis met with supporters individually before she left to attend the final event of her first Valley campaign stop, a meeting with unspecified elected officials.
A group of five protesters from a Christian ministry stood in light rain near the entrance to Poncho’s parking lot to rally against what they dubbed Davis’ “humanistic” worldview.