Texas Democratic icon Wendy Davis and Florida congressional candidate Stephanie Murphy argued Friday that the November election offers picks between women who understand issues such as child care, women’s choice, and equal pay — and men who do not.
Davis, the former Texas state senator who made national headlines by filibustering an anti-abortion bill there and then ran a failed bid for the state’s governorship, spoke before a gathering of 60 or 70 University of Central Florida students and others while campaigning in Orlando for Hillary Clinton.
She was joined by Murphy, who’s running against Republican U.S. Rep. John Mica in Florida’s 7th Congressional District, which covers Seminole and northern Orange counties, and includes UCF.
The pair spoke on numerous issues, but always with the same theme: that Clinton and Murphy offer more personal, more compassionate perspectives that would naturally forward interests for women and families, while Donald Trump and Mica could not.
“This election is going to define our identity, literally our very identity as a country,” Davis declared. “Whether we are a country that is inclusive, that dares to stand for the idea that we need to love one another, and that should be extended through the policies and programs that our government supports, or whether we are a country of intolerance and bigotry and walls. What we say to ourselves in this election, with that choice, is going to dictate how our youngest grow up feeling about who they are.”
In brief, introductory remarks and then in a question-and-answer session with the mostly young, mostly female gathering at UCF, Davis and Murphy recited a litany of issues such as affordable child care, equal pay for women, family leave, abortion rights, birth control, violence against women, discrimination against women, and wage increases. Each time, their message was that Clinton and Murphy took such issues personally and intend to make them top domestic priorities, while Trump and occasionally Mica were either uninterested or overtly opposed.
But it was an unexpected issue that perhaps drew the most personal and passionate of their responses.
In one of the few questions that had any kind of challenge to their Democratic positions, a young woman asked them about Syrian refugees. The young woman pointed out that, as Republicans, particularly Trump, have argued, she’s worried about whether they could be properly vetted before being admitted to America. She added that was a particular concern in Orlando, which suffered a terrorist attack by an ISIS sympathizer, at the Pulse nightclub on June 12.
Davis and Murphy argued for compassion.
Murphy pointed out that her family were refugees, having fled communist Vietnam in the late 1970s on a boat when she was an infant, seeking an uncertain future with no family, no social support systems, and in someplace unknown, where likely no one spoke their language.
“I will assure [you] that nobody is a refugee by choice,” Murphy said. “To get on a boat with a six-month-old and an eight-year-old and not know what lies ahead for you, in the South China Sea, is a risk that you take and a sacrifice you make because you seek a better life for your children.
“And having worked in national security, I will tell you there is no way to lock down our borders and make us safer,” she added, referring to her former career as a U.S. Defense Department analyst. “That is not why we are strong and smart when it comes to national security. Those are ideas thrown out there irresponsibly. And all they do is stoke division within our society and derision from overseas.”
Davis recalled seeing a recent picture of a young girl in Aleppo, the epicenter of the refugee crisis in Syria.
“It was absolutely compelling,” Davis said. “She was bleeding. She had a look of shock in her face. And I couldn’t help but think about Anne Frank …. I remember as a young person, reading that story and thinking to myself: ‘We can never do that again.’ For a long time we as a country turned a blind eye to what was happening during that regime. We cannot afford to turn that blind eye. We are human beings.”