Wendy Davis, a former Texas state senator known for her 11-hour filibuster in 2013 to block a Senate bill restricting abortion, visited campus Thursday to meet with student leaders. She will also hold a roundtable event Friday morning in the Law School and will later visit the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Chronicle’s Samantha Neal talked with Davis about the presidential election, the ongoing Charlotte protests and student voting as Davis visited Red Mango.
The Chronicle: I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about what you’re doing in North Carolina. What events are you going to and what do you hope to gain?
Wendy Davis: It’s kind of a multi-layered responsibility while I’m here. I’m doing some campaigning for Hillary tomorrow [Friday] around the state, I’m campaigning and fundraising for Deborah Ross, a U.S. Senate candidate. Of course, I have the privilege of putting my Deeds Not Words [an organization that connects young activists with existing resources, which Davis founded] hat on with the students here at Duke.
TC: What kind of role do you see young people—and especially young people in North Carolina—playing in this election?
WD: It’s crucial. Young people in this country—and I’m sure the statistic is similar here—occupy almost 40 percent of the voting population, and so the participation of young people and their values at the voting box is really going to make a difference in the future of this country and this election.
TC: I know you’re an advocate for Hillary Clinton. What has your role in her campaign been like?
WD: I’ve been a surrogate for her, and I’ve traveled to around 20 states for her campaign. I try to share my story about what I’ve observed over the long course of her public service career and why I feel so passionately about why her voice is needed. Particularly because I think this is going to be the most pivotal election we’ve ever faced and knowing how important the Supreme Court has been to some of our civil and reproductive rights of late, if we lose our ability to place people on that court, we’re going to live with that for decades to come.
TC: You were a state senator in Texas. What has your experience been like as a female Democrat in the South?
WD: I’m no longer in the Senate. I had to give up my Senate seat when I ran for governor and lost in 2014, but it was both challenging and also an amazing privilege to be in the Texas Senate because I knew I was a voice for people that didn’t ordinarily have a voice fighting for them there. That felt very important to me. I miss being on that floor with that microphone because it gives you a special opportunity to speak on behalf of others, but the work I’m doing through Deeds Not Words is an extension of that, and I hope that I can have more of an impact by helping young people find their voice and become advocates for things that they care about.
TC: You’ve mentioned police brutality and the recent shooting in Charlotte [on social media]. How do you think this issue impacts the world today and this election?
WD: I think we’re at a real crisis point in America with our criminal justice system and the way that it relates to people of color. I’m hopeful that we are going to have new leadership that will help guide us through it. We certainly need to be, I think, focusing on that as we think about who we are going to support in this election and whether we’re going to have someone who is focused on helping us heal or someone who is focused on dividing us even more. And I am terrified of being divided even more.
TC: Why did you want to stop in Red Mango?
WD: I’m starving! It’s one of those treats you can give yourself where you don’t feel too terribly bad.