Davis, who gained national attention for leading a filibuster against abortion restrictions, will likely face off against GOP Attorney General Greg Abbott.
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
FORT WORTH, Texas (CFP) – Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis has launched a bid for Texas governor, hoping to ride notoriety from her filibuster against new abortion restrictions last summer all the way to the Lone Star State’s top office.
Davis, 50, kicked off her campaign at a high school in suburban Fort Worth. But despite her very public association with the issue of abortion, she did not mention the a-word during her opening announcement.
Instead, Davis chose a populist focus on fulfilling what she called “the promise of Texas,” including improving education and battling big-money interests in state politics.
“Real leaders know that real problems deserve real solutions,” Davis said. “That’s the approach I brought to Austin, and that’s what I’ll do as your next governor.”
Davis, a single mother who worked her way through college and then Harvard Law School, also said that “Texas deserves a leader who understands that making education a priority creates good jobs for Texans.”
With no other major Democrat yet in the race, she is seen as the most likely opponent for the expected Republican nominee, Attorney General Greg Abbott. The incumbent, Governor Rick Perry, is retiring after 14 years in office.
Given that no Democrat has won a statewide race since 1994, Abbott starts the race as the prohibitive favorite. He also currently has a more than 20-to-1 advantage in fundraising over Davis, although her national profile will probably enable her to narrow that gap.
However, a poll released October 2 by the Texas Lyceum, a non-partisan public interest group, showed Abbott leading Davis by only an eight-point margin, 29 percent to 21 percent, with half of Texas voters saying they’re still undecided. (The poll’s margin of error was plus or minus 3.5 percent.)
While Abbott’s lead is slight, the poll also showed that 55 percent of Texans approved of Perry’s job performance and 62 percent thought the state’s economy was better than the national economy — both figures that bode well for the GOP nominee.
Davis, who represents a Fort Worth-area district, is best known nationally for leading a more than 11-hour filibuster last June that delayed efforts by the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature to pass a anti-abortion bill.
The bill would have prohibited bill abortions after 20 weeks, required abortion clinics to meet the same requirements as outpatient surgery centers and forced abortion doctors to get admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.
Her filibuster ran out the clock on a special legislative session called by Perry. He promptly called another special session – which cost Texas taxpayers $800,000 – and the legislature passed the abortion restrictions, which are now being challenged in court.
Republicans who supported the measures said they were an effort to protect the health of women getting abortions at clinics and to protect unborn children past the fifth month of pregnancy. But Texas abortion clinics and their Democratic allies assailed the new rules, claiming that they would force many clinics to close and make abortions harder to obtain.