Friday, July 22, 2011

Annual Gov. Ann Richards Dinner Sponsored By The Democratic Party of Collin Co.

Gov. Ann RichardsThe annual dinner honoring Governor Ann Richards sponsored by the Democratic Party of Collin County is scheduled this year for Saturday August 6, 2011.

Governor Richards is admired as a person who stood up for everyday citizens in Texas throughout her life. A video at the bottom of this article presents Richards speaking at the 1988 Democratic National Convention where, in the first 16 minutes of the speech, she explains why it is important that our elected representatives in government stand up for everyday citizens.

According to Shawn Stevens, Chair of the Democratic Party of Collin County, that is why the 2011 Richards Dinner planning committee selected, "Standing Up for Everyday Citizens," as the theme for this year's fund raising dinner.

In keeping with that theme, the featured speakers for the fund raising dinner this year are Wisconsin Democratic State Senator Jon Erpenbach, better known as one of the "Wisconsin 14," and Texas Democratic State Representative Rafael Anchia. According to Leaca Caspari, Chair of the 2011 Richards Dinner planning committee, the reason both Erpenbach and Anchia were invited to speak at the dinner this year is that they are widely regarded as elected officials who are known for taking a principled stand for everyday citizens.

For Texans who may not be familiar with the story behind the Wisconsin 14, here are some excepts from a NYTimes article published on March 12, 2011:

They are the unlikeliest of folk heroes... But this group of once-obscure lawmakers — a dairy farmer, a lawyer and a woman who is seven months pregnant, among others — that fled this capital nearly a month ago, returned Saturday to the cheers of tens of thousands who once again packed the streets in protest.

Many in the crowd wore buttons or held signs bearing admiring nicknames for the group: the “Fighting 14,” the “Fab 14” or, simply, “the Wisconsin 14.” They chanted, “Thank you” and “Welcome home.”

This is, of course, not the standard reception for state legislators, typically as anonymous as they are unglamorous. “Before all of this occurred, I wouldn’t have known a lot of their names,” said Paul Fieber, a retired state employee carrying a sign declaring, “Our heroes.” “But that has changed for me and a lot of the population.”

The reason for the reception was that the 14 Democratic state senators had returned weeks after fleeing to another state in a dramatic — if ultimately failed — effort to deny quorum in the state senate to prevent a vote on a bill that would significantly weaken public-sector unions. During the weeks the 14 Democratic state senators were out of the state tens of thousands building to hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin citizens protested the Republican union busting legislation in the state capitol and other Wisconsin cities.

Wisconsin State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D) addresses the 2011 IAFF Legislative Conference, telling the story of the Wisc. 14 on March 17, 2011

The ALEC sponsored Wisc. bill, which limits collective bargaining rights and requires annual votes for unions to stay in existence, among other provisions, was signed into law in March by Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, after passing in both Republican-controlled chambers earlier.

However, that Republican victory spawned a popular recall petition movement for six Republican state senators. In retaliation the Republican Party circulated recall petitions for six Democratic state senators.

After weeks of signature collection during the spring, the Badger State certified recall elections for nine state senators, six Republicans and three Democrats.

At stake is the balance of power in the Wisconsin State Senate, where Republicans currently hold a 19-14 advantage, and, really, the balance of political power in the state. Should Democrats manage to pick up a net of three seats in all those recall votes, they would control the Senate and be able to put the brakes on Walker's ALEC backed agenda.

The first of nine summer recall elections held in mid-July, the attempted recall of Democratic State Senator Dave Hansen, ended in defeat for the Republican challenger. Hansen easily won the recall election with 68.4% of the vote. The next recall elections are scheduled for Aug. 9, when the six Republicans will face their Democratic challengers. Then, on Aug. 16 the two remain Democrats facing recall election will defend their seats against Republicans.

Jon Erpenbach will tell the Wisconsin 14 story to the Richards dinner audience and give a current update on the Aug. 9 recall election, which will occur only three days after the dinner.

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