Wendy Davis: Ready to ride for governor of Texas?

Wendy Davis, the Texas state senator famous for her 13-hour filibuster over abortion rights, spoke at the National Press Club in Washington. The Democrat sounded like a possible candidate for governor. 

Nick Wass/AP
Texas State Senator Wendy Davis (c.) famous for her 12-hour filibuster attempt against an anti-abortion rights bill, poses for pictures with attendees at a fundraiser, July 25, in Washington.

Governor of Texas or another term in the state Senate?

Wendy Davis, a rising Democratic star in the Lone Star State, narrowed her campaign choices to those two Monday in a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, telling reporters afterward she'd announce which one she’s running for “hopefully in just the next couple of weeks.”

State Senator Davis shot to national fame on June 25 during an epic 13-hour filibuster in the Texas Legislature over restrictive new abortion regulations. Her effort killed the legislation, only to see it passed when Gov. Rick Perry (R) called another special session.

Still, Davis is now a hot political commodity, and it’s not hard to imagine her seizing the moment and going for the open governor’s seat. Governor Perry is not running for reelection. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is favored to win the Republican nomination.

Davis would face an uphill battle in a state that has not elected a Democrat to statewide office since 1994. Indeed, polls show Davis well behind Mr. Abbott in early matchups. Abbott reportedly has almost $21 million on hand, compared with just $1 million for Davis. (She held two fundraisers in Washington on July 25.)

Nevertheless, Democrats are eager for her to run for governor in a red state they believe is on the road to becoming a “purple” battleground, as the state’s Hispanic population grows. Politico reports that Davis has had conversations with the Democratic Governors Association (DGA), which helps Democrats get elected governor; Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) of Vermont, the chairman of the DGA, called Davis to congratulate her after her filibuster.

“I’m thinking very carefully about it for myself and my family,” Davis said after her press club speech. “Obviously, it’s a huge task to take on, and I want to make sure that it’s the right thing for me, and also that it’s something that hopefully our state would want to see.”

In her address, Davis took her message beyond the confines of reproductive rights, highlighting “the importance of having a voice” on a range of issues: from the state’s “very underfunded public school system” and the fights for equal pay for women and consumer reform to the needs of returning veterans and the importance of building bipartisan coalitions.

“For all the rhetoric about big government and small government, I think that the majority of Texans just want to see good government,” she said.

Davis acknowledged that her filibuster has opened up new possibilities for her in Texas.

“It isn’t just about reproductive rights, though that day was about reproductive rights,” she said. “It’s about the vacuum of leadership that’s happening there. It’s about the failure of our state leaders who are currently in power to really be connected to what families want to see.

“Whether it’s the dramatic number of folks in Texas who don’t have health insurance, whether it’s the dramatic defunding of public education, which has put us into a battle in the court system in Texas for the last year and a half or so, whether it’s a failure to invest in higher education, Texas really isn’t listening to families.”

Davis feels so passionately about education, she said, because of her own story. She and her three siblings were raised by a single mother with a sixth-grade education. By the time Davis was 19, she had married, given birth, and gotten divorced.

“I was always on the brink of a financial disaster back then – a flat tire meant having to choose a belonging to pawn at my local pawn shop,” she said.

Determined not to raise her daughter in poverty, she enrolled in community college, then transferred to Texas Christian University, and ultimately earned a degree from Harvard Law School.

Now she’s being asked whether she would consider running for vice president with Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“We’ll have to find out whether Hillary is planning to run for president,” Davis responded to an audience member at the press club.

Davis was also asked about whether fellow Texan Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and daughter of the late former Gov. Ann Richards (D), should come back and run for office statewide.

“I would welcome her back to Texas,” Davis said. “I’ll sign up for her campaign if she wants to run.”

And what will become of the pink running shoes she made famous – the ones she wore during her filibuster?

“To the horror of a couple of people on my political team, I immediately put them back on and started running on the trail again with them,” Davis said. “At some point before they completely fall apart, I’ll set them aside, because they’ll be a memory that I will treasure forever.”

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