When Texas state senator Wendy Davis made her historic filibuster, standing in the way of the Senate passing a massive anti-abortion omnibus bill that would potentially close almost every clinic in the state, rumors abounded that the next step would be a declaration of a run for the governor’s mansion.
Now, it’s here. Davis is running.
Sen. Wendy Davis stood for eleven hours with no rest, food, water or physical support while she spoke continuously in opposition of a bill that would regulate abortion clinics out of existence as well as ban abortions after twenty weeks post fertilization, with absolutely no exceptions for victims of sexual assault or those whose pregnancies had genetic issues. Hundreds of supporters backed her silently in the Capitol, afraid to make a noise and be forced to leave the area. Nearly 200,000 watched online as she spoke ceaselessly, stopping only for periodic questions and GOP accusations that she had gone off topic or otherwise violated the filibuster rules. And hundreds of thousands learned about her stand against the overreaching Texas GOP, who later called an additional special session to ram through the bill she managed to filibuster in the previous special session.
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Now Davis and a campaign team will see if they can turn that momentum both inside and outside the state into a winning campaign in the 2014 governor’s race. When it comes to electing governors, Texas has no problem with female politicians, or Democrats. In fact, a Governor Davis would follow the footsteps of Governor Ann Richards, the Democratic female governor who served for four years before being beaten in her reelection campaign by George W. Bush.
The Texas landscape is much different today than it was when Richards ran, however, but in some ways that may benefit Davis. Although Texas continues to vote for Republicans in presidential elections and has sent more than its fair share of right wingers to Congress (Louie Gohmert, anyone?), pundits admit that the state is beginning to trend blue, a situation that could put it ripe for a new party in the governor’s mansion.
Also ready to play into the race may be the growing abortion battle in the state. Since the passage of HB 2 (third time’s the charm!), abortion clinic owners including Planned Parenthood, as well as the Center for Reproductive Rights and the state ACLU, have sued to block a portion of the law requiring admitting privileges, a requirement that the clinics say would likely force all but five in the state to close. Named in the suit is Greg Abbott, the state Attorney General and the GOPer most believe would be Davis’s challenger if she wins the party nomination. Considering Davis has been sneeringly dubbed “Abortion Barbie” by the conservative press, the battle lines don’t get much more tightly drawn than this.
Is total and complete “no exceptions” abortion opposition what the people of Texas want from their politicians? Probably not, and the GOP may sense that. That would be the likely explanation behind GOP Governor Rick Perry’s wife’s “admission” this weekend that she believes abortion is in fact a choice and a right that should be up to each pregnant person. Perry is now trying to do damage control, claiming his wife “misspoke,” but sending the wife out to soften the anti-choice stance of a Texas politician has been a longstanding tradition performed by the likes of both Barbara Bush and Laura Bush. The move, which was still likely as not an attempt for the GOP to have it both ways, shows a hint of a party concerned that their hardline stances may be giving the administration a black eye with more moderate Texans. If those moderates can be convinced that the GOP has been more interested in social legislation than the fiscal responsibilities they claim they were running to address, the Republicans could be in danger come election day.
The gubernatorial hopeful has already raised close to $1 million for her next race. The question is, will that be enough? Analysts predict that she will need about $40 million to wage a winning campaign, and there’s little doubt that outside groups will get involved as well if the race becomes a national affair.
There is currently one pro-choice, female governor in the nation. Will we see two? The first step is already taken, but there’s a long way still for Davis to run.