Wendy Davis, the Texas Democrat who gained overnight celebrity in June when she – shod in pink sneakers – filibustered an abortion bill in the Texas Legislature for 13 hours, reportedly will run for governor of the heavily Republican state in 2014.
According to the Associated Press, two Democrats with knowledge of her decision but who requested anonymity said the Fort Worth-area state senator had made her decision. On Twitter Ms. Davis said she would make a big announcement on Oct. 3.
Though the abortion bill eventually passed in a special legislative session ordered by Republican Gov. Rick Perry, the filibuster put Davis in the national spotlight and raised the hopes of Texas Democrats, who haven’t occupied the governor’s mansion since incumbent Ann Richards lost to George W. Bush in 1994.
Governor Perry, the longest serving Texas governor, announced in July that he wouldn't seek reelection. The former – and possibly future – Republican presidential candidate succeeded Mr. Bush in 2000.
While Ms. Davis would be the most high-profile gubernatorial candidate the Texas Democrats have fielded in a long time, she has a long, hard road ahead: Texas Republicans have won every statewide office from the mid-90s to the present, and they have near 2-to-1 majorities in both the Texas House and Senate.
The uphill climb for Texas Democrats has made drumming up financial support, or even enough manpower to run a competitive campaign, very difficult, says Cal Jillison, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
In 2010, Perry easily defeated Democrat Bill White, with 55.1 percent of the vote to Mr. White’s 42.4 percent.
Davis will likely face off against GOP favorite and conservative stalwart Attorney General Gregg Abbott, who has already raised more than $20 million for his campaign.
While Davis has been moving around the country since her filibuster in a fundraising effort, her best efforts might not add up. Democrats outside the state are unlikely to invest in Texas elections, Professor Jillison says.
Though Jillison estimates that Davis will raise $20 million – this could become pocket change in comparison to what Republicans will likely offer Abbot's campaign. If it becomes apparent that Davis is a real threat to the GOP nominee, a host of Republican donors will be on stand-by to write more checks to bolster Abbott's campaign, he says.
And in a state where there are no limits to campaign contributions, the race for the governor’s seat could very well hinge on who has enough funding to get their message out.
While Davis's pro-choice campaign won her celebrity nationally, among more conservative voters in Texas, it won her notoriety.
"The Republicans will certainly try and tie that abortion filibuster around her neck," says Jillison, adding that it is essential that Davis becomes seen as an advocate for other issues that will be more palatable to the Texas electorate.
Despite the challenges Davis faces, an aggressive campaign against Abbott could have huge national implications, Jillison argues.
While demographic shifts are expected to push the state from the red to blue columns politically in the next 20 years, he says, the Democratic Party could be persuaded to invest in Texas elections sooner if Davis runs a truly competitive campaign.
Second in population only to California, Texas has 38 electoral votes.
“If Texas ever became competitive, let alone turned blue, Republicans would have no path to the White House,” he says.