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A Short Term Victory for Democrats in Texas Has Lasting Implications

by Shawn M. Griffiths, published
Credit: Texas Tribune

Texas Senator Wendy Davis

People nationwide turned their attention to Texas on Tuesday as state Senator Wendy Davis (D- Fort Worth) set out to filibuster an anti-abortion bill, SB 5,  for thirteen hours to keep it from passing before the special session in the Texas Legislature expired. While she was not able to keep the filibuster going until midnight, a bill that would have easily passed the Senate died due, in large part, to her efforts.

The victory for Democrats, though sweet opponents of the bill, will likely be short. On Wednesday, Governor Rick Perry called for a second special session where the contentious legislation will be a primary focus.

There is a name, however, known nationwide now because of the events on the Senate floor. Davis not only garnered increased name recognition, but has obtained a degree of celebrity status. The hashtag #standwithwendy spread on Twitter like wildfire on dry grass.

Celebrities, public figures, and even President Obama's Twitter account chimed in:

The tweet was retweeted over 17,600 times.

Zach Green, developer of Twitter Politics and founder of @UniteBlue, encouraged Wendy Davis to run for governor:

While some may find it hard to believe a Democrat could win a statewide race in Texas, it may not be long before candidates like Davis have a shot. Current trends in the makeup of the state's electorate indicate a gradual shift thanks in large part to the state's growing Latino population.

She wouldn't be able to win the state on a social issue like abortion, but she certainly has people's attention.

For those wondering, SB 5 was brought to the floor of the Texas Senate for consideration on Tuesday. The bill would not only ban abortions past 20 weeks, but it would require clinics to maintain the same standards as a surgical center in a hospital, and require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at local hospitals.

The new standards, alone, would shut down all, but 5 clinics in the state because only 5 currently have the means to uphold such standards.

The rules of a filibuster in Texas include not straying off topic and standing the whole time. A senator cannot sit down or lean against their desk for support. Three rule violations and the filibuster is over.

Did you know: The longest filibuster in American history took place on the Texas Senate floor. Senator Bill Meier filibustered a bill for 43 hours in 1977. Imagine what it would take to keep a filibuster going for 43 hours.

Wendy Davis began her filibuster at 11:18 AM on Tuesday. It ended around 10 PM after Lt. Governor Dewhurst, the presiding officer of the Senate, sustained a third violation for going off topic. From there, it was the crowd that interrupted further procedure and Republicans were not able to get a vote in time.

Whether the vote was taken in time or not depends on the source. Republican lawmakers insist that a vote was taken while Democrats argue it wasn't. There is still confusion over the matter as the whole thing turned into a procedural nightmare. There were some questionable things that happened on Senate floor.

So debate over the anti-abortion bill will start from scratch. Wendy Davis and other Democrats will continue to fight it and they will likely lose. However, speculation is already spreading that the filibuster star of Texas will make a run for governor in 2014.

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