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Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis launches campaign for governor of Texas

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

texas mugFORT 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.”

Texas State Senator Wendy David

Texas State Senator Wendy Davis

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.

WATCH COVERAGE OF DAVIS ANNOUNCEMENT FROM KDFW-TV

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott enters 2014 race for governor

Abbott highlights his fights against Obamacare and gun control but avoids immigration.

(See announcement video below)

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

texas mugSAN ANTONIO (CFP) — Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott has officially entered the race to be the next governor of Texas, launching his 2014 campaign by highlighting his fights against what he sees as infringements on constitutional freedoms and the overweening hand of the federal government.

“I didn’t invent the phrase ‘Don’t Mess with Texas,” but I have applied it more than anyone else,” says Abbott, who has sued the federal government 27 times during his three terms as state attorney general. “When it comes to our freedom and our future, I will never, never stop fighting. That why I’m asking you, the people of Texas, to elect me governor.”

Abbott, 55, made his announcement July 14 before a crowd of supporters in San Antonio, 29 years to the day since a freak accident left him paralyzed and in a wheelchair.

Greg Abbott

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott enters 2014 governor’s race

“On a steamy summer day like this, I went out for a jog. While I was jogging, a huge oak tree suddenly crashed down on me,” says Abbott. “Doctors inserted two steel rods up and down my vertebrae … Some politicians talk about having a spine of steel. I actually have one.”

Abbott’s speech touched on familiar conservative themes, such as his legal battles against Obamacare and gun control and his successful defense of a Ten Commandments display at the State Capitol in Austin.

However, in his kickoff speech, Abbott, whose wife is Hispanic, didn’t mention an issue near and dear to the nativist wing of his party – immigration. Noting the blending of Latino and white cultures in the Lone Star State, he said, “Dos casas, pero una fundacion. (“Two houses, but one foundation.)

Abbott’s campaign Web site also steers clear of the issue, although it does note his work to combat human trafficking across the U.S.-Mexican border.

Republicans in Texas — where Latinos make up nearly 40 percent of the population — have steered clear of the more strident anti-immigration sentiment seen in GOP circles in other states.

Current Gov. Rick Perry was assailed as too soft on the immigration issue during his 2012 presidential run, although he has since come out against a compromise immigration bill that recently passed the U.S. Senate. Former President George W. Bush, Perry’s predecessor in Austin, supports the Senate bill.

Abbott is considered the prohibitive front-runner in the governor’s race, having raised Texas-sized campaign stash of more than $22 million. Perry’s decision not to seek a fourth full term as the state’s chief executive cleared away the largest obstacle in Abbott’s path.

Tom Pauken, a former state GOP chairman and state workforce commissioner from Port Aransas, is opposing Abbott. Debra Medina, a Ron Paul acolyte from Wharton who ran a spirited primary campaign against Perry in 2010, had also considered the race but is now running for state comptroller.

Pauken has characterized the race against Abbott as a “battle for the soul of the Republican party,” pitting big-money interests and Austin insiders against what he called the “Reaganesque grassroots.” He has challenged Abbott to a series of Lincoln/Douglas-style debates across the state.

On the Democratic side, State Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth, who became the heroine of the abortion movement by successfully filibustering an anti-abortion bill in June 2013, is running. However, both San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and former Houston Mayor Bill White, who lost to Perry in 2010, decided not to run.

A Democrat has not won the Texas governorship since Ann Richards did it in 1990. She lost to Bush four years later, which marked the beginning of a GOP tidal wave in state politics.

All nine executive officials elected statewide in Texas are Republicans, as are all nine elected members of the state Supreme Court.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry bows out, paving way for GOP Attorney General Greg Abbott

Gov. Rick Perry’s departure gives Texas its first open governor’s race since 1990

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

texas mugSAN ANTONIO (CFP) — Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s decision not to seek a fourth full term as the Lone Star State’s chief executive in 2014 has opened up the field, with GOP Attorney General Greg Abbott seen as a prohibitive favorite to succeed the colorful and frequently controversial incumbent.

Perry, the longest serving governor in Texas history, announced July 8 that he would not run to serve another four years in what he called “the greatest job in modern politics.”

Quoting the “time for every season” passage from the Book of Ecclisiasties, Perry said, “The time has come to pass on the mantle of leadership.” He also said he would “pray and reflect” on his future plans but was mum on whether he will seek the presidency in 2016.

Greg Abbott

Attorney General Greg Abbott frontrunner in Texas governor’s race

Abbott, 55, from Wichita Falls, was appointed as a justice to the Texas Supreme Court by then-Gov. George W. Bush in 1996. He ran for attorney general in 2002 when John Cornyn left that job in a successful bid for the U.S. Senate, and has been re-elected twice.

Abbott, who has used a wheelchair since the age of 26, when he was injured by a falling tree, has raised a staggering, Texas-sized $18 million for the governor’s race, with two years still to go.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who lost a U.S. Senate bid in 2012, has said he plans to run for re-election rather than trying to move up to the top post. If he sticks to that position, it would clear away one possible hurdle for Abbott.

Tom Pauken, a former state GOP chairman and state workforce commissioner from Port Aransas, has announced a bid for governor. Debra Medina, a Ron Paul acolyte from Wharton who challenged Perry in the 2010 GOP primary, has also said she’s considering a bid, and a Facebook page has been set up to draft her into the race.

On the Democratic side, the pickings are slender, which is not surprising given Texas’ strong GOP bent.

Both San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and former Houston Mayor Bill White, who lost to Perry in 2010, have declined to run. State Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth, who became the heroine of the abortion movement by successfully filibustering an anti-abortion bill in June 2013, is being mentioned as a possibility.

Also being mentioned is Annise Parker, the openly lesbian mayor of Houston. She easily won re-election as mayor of the state’s largest city in 2011.

The last time Texas didn’t have an incumbent running in the governor’s race was in 1990, when Democrat Ann Richards defeated Republican Clayton Williams. Richards lost four years later to Bush, who won re-election in 1998. Perry became governor when Bush was elected president in 2000 and won re-election in 2002, 2006 and 2010.

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