The Battle for the Texas State House
State elections also slated for November 2
Two strong women, two survivors, two campaigns, one Texas State Representative seat to fill. Democratic incumbent Ellen Cohen and Republican challenger Sarah Davis have many similarities and many differences as they work to convince voters they would be the best Representatives for Houston in the Texas State House.
Neither candidate considered herself a politician as she grew up. Both candidates are concerned with similar issues, such as access to health care, education and safety, but the approaches to addressing these issues are in many ways different.
"Democracy is really about standing up and defending your right to talk,” she said. “When you don't have a real discourse, you get two sides pointing fingers and not listening. In a democracy, even if I disagree, I need to pause and really listen to what you're saying."
Representative Cohen is a 40-year survivor of breast cancer. She was President and CEO of the Houston Areas Women's Center and founder of Reach to Recovery, a foundation to help women who have been diagnosed with cancer.
Davis, also a breast cancer survivor, first considered running for public office last year. As she was receiving chemotherapy, she followed the health care legislation that President Barack Obama and Congress were proposing. That is when she decided to enter the political arena.
When it comes to taking care of the health care needs of children, both candidates realize that many children in Texas qualify for CHIP, the Children's Health Insurance Plan. However, many families either do not realize that they qualify or do not know how to apply. Both candidates say there needs to be easier access to the health care than is currently offered in Texas.
Safety for children is another priority for both candidates, yet the approaches differ.
Representative Cohen co-authored child safety seat legislation.
“In car crashes where children are restrained by only an adult seat, they are more likely to suffer severe head, spinal cord and internal injuries,” she said. “It's just that one moment that can change a person's entire life.”
Davis addresses the issue of safety in the schools, which she says should be handled by local school districts and not federal government.
Unlike on the federal level where the Democrats hold a majority of the legislative seats, in Texas Republicans are the party in power. The Texas state house currently consists of 77 Republicans and 73 Democrats. With such a close count, the two parties must compromise to get any legislation passed.
"That's one of the reasons, when I'm looking to author a bill, I often look for a Republican colleague to joint author the bill with me," Cohen said. "Getting things done in the Texas legislature is not about pointing fingers or making people afraid. It's about being true to your word, respecting those who may not agree with you, and working through those differences."
Which could be another area where these two very different candidates agree.
PHOTOS: Kid Reporter Erin Sheena in the campaign offices of candidates Ellen Cohen (top) and Sarah Davis (bottom). (Photos Courtesy Erin Sheena)