Democratic state Sen. and staunch opponent of late-term abortion bans, Wendy Davis, declared her candidacy for governor of Texas on Thursday, promising to focus on the needs of average Texans.
In an email to supporters, Wendy Davis said she would focus on education, economic development and health care. Davis has said that the experience of going from being a single teen mother to a successful Harvard-trained attorney informs her political views and her commitment to Texas’ middle-class residents.
That’s a bit ironic, considering the Fort Worth lawmaker rose to national prominence in June for her nearly 13-hour filibuster against popular new abortion restrictions in Texas.
Davis’ opponents plan to use her support for restriction-free abortion to rally conservative Christian voters next fall. About 40 anti-abortion demonstrators marched outside the venue where Davis was speaking Thursday, and Texas Right to Life plans to begin airing an ad over the weekend that calls her an “abortion zealot.”
If her defense of abortion rights angered the right, it caused the Democratic Party establishment to urged her to run for governor in 2014, which they hope will reinvigorate a party that hasn’t won statewide office since 1994. Her speech in the Legislature also added to her donor list, both in Texas, but mostly from proponents of restriction-free abortion and across the country.
“I thought the filibuster was inspiring and it seems like she really cares about people,” said Amanda Fisher, a 24-year-old from Dallas. Fisher said she was considering volunteering for a political campaign for the first time.
Davis must raise money quickly to compete with the front-runner for the GOP nomination, Attorney General Gregg Abbott. He has already raised $25 million to her more than $1 million and is polling far ahead of Davis.
Davis and the political action committees supporting her will need to spend about $40 million to make it a competitive campaign in Texas, because Democrats have not won more than 42 percent of the vote in the last three elections.
Democratic Party operatives hope that national Democratic support, as well as changing state demographics will give Davis a chance to end the party’s 20-year losing streak in Texas.
Davis’ personal story is at odds with the stand she took on late-term abortion bans. She has a marvelous story of coming from a trailer park to Texas Christian University, and landing at Harvard Law School. Even though this has captured the imagination of many of her supporters, it is a bit suspicious that someone who had a child young – and chose to keep it – would be so inclined to support terminating pregnancies when science has established that they are physically aware of the painful procedure.
As far as her professional life, Davis was a successful attorney when she decided to enter politics by challenging a veteran Republican state senator in Tarrant County in 2008. She barely won that race and a tough re-election bid in 2012, when most voters in her district cast ballots for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Observers say her ability to win Republican crossover votes will be critical if she expects to beat Abbott, who has the full strength of the GOP establishment behind him. But that was before she took a stand against a popular piece of legislation banning late-term abortions after 6 months of pregnancy.
Davis originally promised to announce her intentions by Labor Day, but her father became ill following complications from abdominal surgery and died Sept. 5.