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Wendy Davis visits Willy’s Pub for grassroots campaign

Photo by Anastasia Bolshakova | The Rice Thresher

Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis (D) addresses students at Willy’s Pub Wednesday, Feb. 12. During the visit, she highlighted her grassroots campaign efforts.

By Andrew Ta     2/20/14 11:54am

Texas state senator and gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis visited Willy’s Pub Wednesday, Feb. 12 to talk about grassroots campaign efforts and interact with students in an informal setting, according to event organizer Anastasia Bolshakov.

Texas state senator and gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis visited Willy’s Pub Wednesday, Feb. 12 to talk about grassroots campaign efforts and interact with students in an informal setting, according to event organizer Anastasia Bolshakov.

“We’ve been trying to bring Wendy [to Rice University] since summer,” Bolshakov, a Duncan College junior, said. “It’s been on the horizon.”

Bolshakov said she and fellow organizer Faith Shapiro were fellows with Battleground Texas, the organization running the grassroots efforts of Davis’ campaign, and through that were able to bring Davis to Rice.

“Samuel Kraus is involved with Battleground Texas and said, ‘Hey, Wendy’s going to be in Houston on Wednesday. Would you like to have her on campus?,’ ” Bolshakov said. “We wanted it to be a really informal event, not another campaign stop. It was really about talking to students and telling them about grassroots organization and giving them a chance to meet Wendy. It wasn’t just another campaign event.”

According to Bolshakov, Davis was informal and relaxed during the event and even posed for numerous selfies with students.

“[The event] began with a talk led by people from Battleground Texas about grassroot organizing,” Bolshakov said. “Then Wendy came out and didn’t really give a speech, but thanked everyone for coming out and talked a bit about herself and how she cares about education, which is a core pillar of her policies. She stepped down from the stage and went around meeting people and taking lots of pictures. She was actually interested in what people had to say.”

Bolshakov said the turnout succeeded expectations and that she and Shapiro, a Duncan College senior, had to pull the Facebook event to avoid overflowing Pub’s capacity.

“The Facebook event started out as a public event, and in the first hour, over 150 people RSVP’d,” Bolshakov said. “At that point, Faith and I were both worried because the Pub capacity is 299. So with more students RSVPing every minute, we would’ve been packed like little sardines, so we had to make the event closed. Pub was pretty packed, and it proved that Rice isn’t apathetic, that students do care.”

Pub Event Manager Elly Hutchinson said over 200 students attended and that the event brought newcomers to Pub.

“I joked that we were sort of confirming our political status by way of the event (if it wasn’t already clear), but it really was awesome for us,” Hutchinson, a Brown College junior, said. “We had people down there that have probably never even been in the [Rice Memorial Center] basement. It was also superb to get Wendy to comment on the coolness of Rice having an undergraduate bar and even more superb that I gave her a Pub shirt.”

According to Hutchison, Pub was a good setting for the event for a variety of reasons, including that the event had been cleared with risk management.

“Faith is a Pub bartender veteran and former manager,” Hutchinson said. “It kind of made sense for her but in hindsight was also probably the best scene for this type of event. [The event] wasn’t publicized that much, which meant we could control capacity. It was in a central location and it was a casual atmosphere.”

Attendee Shaan Patel said for the most part, he enjoyed listening to Davis.

“The description of the network campaigning idea was poorly presented, although an interesting structure,” Patel, a McMurtry College senior, said. “The testimonials after that, however, were well-spoken and compelling. Ms. Davis herself was personable, well-practiced, engaging and generally wonderful. Her pink blazer was perfect for the casual atmosphere and her call to arms, inspiring.”

McMurtry junior Shivani Morrison said she appreciated that the event was held at Pub.

“Since it’s a student-run business, it’s a symbol of the capability and autonomy of our students,” Morrison said. “In that sense, it felt like she was speaking to us as equals, which was pretty empowering.”

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