Twenty years since the last Democratic governor in office, a competitor ahead in fundraising by $20 million, and a state mired in religious conservatism. In the face of it all, underdog hero of the Democratic Party, Wendy Davis, announced her bid for Texas governor. But her recent rise to stardom after her 11-hour filibuster of extreme anti-abortion legislation cannot be her only wild card if she hopes to take the office. Instead, her gubernatorial strategy will have to be a clever blend of minority and women’s outreach, fundraising and majority appeal.
Rightfully, campaigners on both sides recognize that Davis has an uphill battle ahead primarily because of the sensitivity of her abortion stance. On one hand, Davis will likely find it wise to continue her staunch opposition to the pro-life view because of the intense out of state funding pouring in, winning her $1 million just days after her filibuster standoff. On the other hand, both the majority and the religious Hispanic minority tend to hold a strong opposition to pro-choice views, and without their avid support, she has zero to no chance of winning.
Interestingly, Davis has actually started off without mentioning abortion even once when announcing her candidacy. Which, while it will be important to stand her ground, shows her priority issues go as far back as her very first filibuster on the cost of college education. Likely the rest of her race will more or less a reflection of this past weekend at the Texas Tribune Festival where she began to broaden her image beyond a single issue, including other issues of economic reform and health care into a more comprehensive political identity.
Republican Greg Abbott, currently Texas Attorney General is likely her expected challenger for the governor’s seat, and with $25 million in funding and the Texas Right to Life organization crying out “abortion zealot” in their already airing radio ads in both English and Spanish, the odds are not in Davis’ favor.
Although there is still 13 months until Election Day, it’s no exaggeration that Davis has to run a flawless race. The normal metrics just don’t apply in Texas,” said Nathan Gonzales, deputy editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report. “Her supporters talk about how she raised $1 million in the days after her filibuster. Well that’s couch cushion money for statewide race in Texas … In order to win, she probably needs to run a perfect campaign, have Abbott implode, and need at least one credible third party candidate in the race to lower her threshold for victory below 50%,” said Gonzales.
Women, African Americans, Independents and upper income, higher educated constituents will be Davis’s crucial demographic in this state that had 51% of all voters polled at conservative in the last midterm. Regardless, however, her proven formidable fundraising track record, her national profile, backing and support from the President and her mobilization of Democrats across the country lead many to believe that this underdog still has a fighting chance.