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Filibuster of Texas abortion bill makes a star of Wendy Davis. Will that last? (+video)

A Democratic state senator in heavily Republican Texas, Wendy Davis rocketed to global social media prominence on the strength of her filibuster and the failure of the abortion bill she opposed.

By Chelsea B. SheasleyCorrespondent / June 26, 2013

Sen. Wendy Davis (D) of Fort Worth (c.) holds up two fingers to signal a 'No' vote as the session where they tried to filibuster an abortion bill draws to a close, Tuesday, June 25, in Austin, Texas. Despite barely beating a midnight deadline, hundreds of jeering protesters helped stop Texas lawmakers from passing the abortion bill.

Eric Gay/AP

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In less than 13 hours, Wendy Davis rocketed from being a Democratic state senator little known beyond heavily Republican Texas to a global social media celebrity, as her filibuster helped defeat a major abortion bill with a last-minute boost from hundreds of noisy supporters packed into the State capitol.

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Chelsea Sheasley is the Monitor's Asia Editor, overseeing regional coverage for CSMonitor.com and the weekly magazine.

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Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis' marathon filibuster together with hundreds of jeering protesters helped scuttle passage of one of the toughest abortion measures in the country.

Ms. Davis’ raised profile – her Twitter account jumped from 1,200 to more than 46,000 followers in a day – and the defeat of a stroke-of-midnight vote on the bill by the deafening roar of supporters in the gallery, are moments that Texas Democrats are relishing, but ones that may not last long, analysts say.

Republican Gov. Rick Perry could call another legislative session with more time to pass the abortion law, and Davis faces an uphill battle if she wants to channel the attention into a bid for statewide office.

“It's over. It's been fun. But see you soon.” Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst told reporters after the bill's defeat early Wednesday, hinting that Governor Perry may soon call legislators back for another 30-day special session.

Davis earned substantial exposure during her 11-hour filibuster. Twitter reports that there were at least 730,000 tweets about the filibuster on Tuesday, with 5,776 tweets per minute at the height of the drama around 11:58 p.m. central time as Senate Republicans were trying for a last-minute vote before the midnight deadline. Hashtags including #StandwithWendy and #WendyDavis trended worldwide, while a YouTube live stream drew more than 180,000 viewers.

“Something special is happening in Austin tonight,” tweeted President Obama’s official twitter account at about 8 p.m. central time Tuesday as Davis entered the ninth hour of her attempt to block passage of the bill, which would have banned abortions after 20 weeks and closed nearly every abortion clinic in the state.

Some political analysts were impressed with Davis’ star-power Tuesday, but question whether she can sustain a lasting statewide or national role. 

“The biggest question is whether Democrats are really ready to compete statewide,” Matthew Wilson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

There is both a governor and US Senate race in 2014, but the last time Democrats in Texas won a major statewide race – for president, senator, or governor – was in 1990 when Ann Richards was elected governor.

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