Over 300 Texas college students from all over the state rallied around Democratic elected officials and candidates with the central message “A better Texas is possible” at the 2022 Texas College Democratic Convention on Saturday, April 2 at the University of Houston in Houston, Texas.
Other themes heard throughout the day were the importance of grassroots organizing, knocking on doors, fundraising in elections, registering voters, and keeping hope alive. With runoff, county, and midterm elections occurring in the next few months, speakers also emphasized the importance of the college-aged voting bloc.
Former Texas College Democrats President J.J. Martinez opened the rally honoring the indigenous land the University of Houston sits on, showing solidarity with Ukraine and commemorating former U.S. Senator Barbara Jordan.
“She asked two questions: she said who will speak for America? And who will speak for the common good,” Martinez said. “My friends today in this city that she represented all those years ago, in this state, and in the country we are asked the same question. Who is going to stand up for Texas? Today I’m asking all of you to answer that question as the good book says: Here I am, send me.”
Texas gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke and other Democratic leaders also spoke about an array of issues including expanding Medicaid, the state anti-choice bill Senate Bill 8, increasing the wage for public educators, the failing electric grid, voter suppression bills impacting elections, and Abbott’s attack on transgender children and their families.
“We got to get past the corruption, the incompetence in the man who holds the highest position of public trust right now,” O’Rourke said. “The person in the highest position of power who can’t keep the power on when we need it. When the temperature drops and people are literally freezing to death in their homes. We’re going to replace cruelty with compassion, incompetence with kindness, and this corruption with empathy that ensures we deliver for each and every Texan.”
Additionally, U.S. Congressmember Sheila Jackson Lee started her speech commemorating the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death on April 4 while also encouraging young voters to walk in his path and become drum majors for change.
“Losing the state legislature, losing the United States Congress, losing the majority in the Senate, is not an option, losing the governorship in Texas is not an option,” Lee said. “And I believe if you embed that in your very DNA we will have the largest massive turnout in the state.”
Texas Lt. Governor candidate Mike Collier, who is endorsed by the state’s College Democrats organization and has a runoff election against state representative Michelle Beckley on May 24, said he isn’t afraid to engage Republicans and told a story about his recent experience at a Texas cattle auction.
“We drove in from West Texas and I wanted to talk to Republicans,” Collier said. “Have you ever been to a cattle auction? Republicans everywhere. So I look around and I see a big ol pile of dirt or so I thought. But I held my head high and I talked about our rights, our Constitution, our freedom and they were listening.”
Next, Texas attorney general candidate Joe Jowarski, who also faces a runoff election against ACLU attorney Rochelle Garza on May 24, called out AG Ken Paxton for fundraising with Donald Trump favorite “The Pillow Guy” Mike Lindell and right-wing conspiracy theorist Steven Hotze on “voter fraud” in the state.
“Ken Paxton is so proud of his fake voter fraud unit that he puts it on his website for x number of convictions,” Jowarski said. “No, he didn’t use that word he used the word successful prosecutions. Well your honor I object. That sounds like mincing words. I know what conviction means and I know what acquittal means, but a successful prosecution. I’m here to tell you we don’t have a voter fraud problem we have a Ken Paxton problem.”
Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee, who has filed a litany of lawsuits against Abbott and Paxton, said the fight for democracy starts now.
“Today is the day to fight, today is the day to register voters, today is the day for you to get elected to city council, today is the day that we bring the fight to the Republicans to Greg Abbott, to Ken Paxton, and to Dan Patrick,” Menefee said. “We stop letting them fight against Texans and we bring the fight to them.
To follow-up on the event, the Signal spoke with Activist and Political Strategist for Gen-Z for Change Olivia Julianna on what comes next after the convention and her aspirations in Texas politics.
“Some people in life don’t have a choice but to get involved in politics because their livelihood and identity is politicized,” Julianna said. “For most of my life I’ve watched republican politicians vilify latin americans, demonize the LGBTQ+ community, and strip women of their bodily autonomy. I have aspirations for Texas because I genuinely love Texas with my entire heart. I love the people of this state and I’m sick of watching communities across the state be underserved and consistently attacked by people elected to represent them.”
Other officials in attendance included Congressman Al Green, Harris County Democratic Party Chair Odus Evbagharu, Houston Mayoral candidate Chris Hollins, Texas Democratic Railroad Commissioner candidate Luke Warford, District 9 Austin City Council candidate Zohaib Qadri, Grand Prairie Councilmember Junior Ezeonu, TX-21 Congressional candidate Claudia Zapata, Fort Bend County Commissioner Precinct 4 candidate Dexter McCoy, Harris County Commissioner Precinct 4 candidate Lesley Briones, and Little Elm Mayor Curtis Cornelious.
In addition to elected officials, some of the state’s biggest higher education Democratic organizations were in attendance including the University of Texas Democrats, Texas A&M University Democrats, University of North Texas Democrats, Rio Grande Valley College Democrats, the University of Houston Democrats, and more.