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Wendy Davis Is Running For Governor, But Can She Really Win?

Photo: JEREMIAH TEUTSCH, License: N/A

JEREMIAH TEUTSCH


The will-she or won’t-she comes to an end. State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) officially announced her bid to run for governor of Texas last week, leading everyone to ask the inevitable question—can she really win?

Davis’ speech played out pretty typical—promises of a better tomorrow, criticisms of the status quo, deft humble-brags of past legislative accomplishments and memorable one-liners, all anchored in an inspiring pick-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps personal narrative that Republican campaign advisors probably secretly salivate over.

Standing in the same arena where she received her high school diploma, Davis recounted her unlikely ascension from broke, teenage single mother living in a trailer park to honors Harvard Law graduate. The story worked its way into her vow to improve Texas, “With the right kind of leadership, the great state of Texas will keep its sacred promise that where you start has nothing to do with how far you can go.”

Alluding to her own evolution, the former Fort Worth city council member said, “We’re here because we want every child to have a world-class education to take them anywhere they want to go, so that success and opportunity is within reach of every single Texan, and no one in this great state is ever forced to dream smaller instead of bigger.” But due to failed statewide policies that have increased college tuition, created burdens to access loans and grants and limited choices for working families, the barrier to escape circumstances like hers are much “steeper” now, said Davis.

Davis also took pointed shots at the current administration’s pay-to-play strategy, “Texans deserve better than failed leaders who dole out favors to friends and cronies behind closed doors. Texas has waited too long for a governor who knows that quid pro quo shouldn’t be the status quo.” Zing.

However, her current calling card—reproductive rights—failed to find a place in her speech, perhaps purposefully. Gaining national attention for her 11-hour filibuster against the conservative-led anti-abortion bill this summer on the state Senate floor, Davis catapulted her name ID as well as Texas’ image as a state unfriendly to women’s rights. The omission may have been a calculated effort to remind voters of her range (the state Senator also famously filibustered against education cuts) and dismiss the notion she’s simply a one-issue or divisive candidate. Or it might have been a defensive move against adversaries gunning to use the single issue as a wedge for more conservative swing voters—the same day she announced her run, anti-abortion group Texas Right to Life launched a 60-second attack ad, calling Davis an “abortion zealot.” And that’s likely the tip of the reputation-smearing iceberg.

Even without the easy target of abortion, Davis’ much-anticipated gubernatorial campaign is an uphill battle. Texas hasn’t elected a Democrat to statewide office since 1994, when former Gov. Ann Richards lost out to George W. Bush, ushering in a consistent red wave that’s lasted some two decades.

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