After Primary Victory, Texas’ Davis Faces Big Odds
AUSTIN, Texas -- After her easy victory in the Texas Democratic primary, Wendy Davis, one of the brightest stars of the 2014 campaign, is now embarking on her mission to win the governor’s office and revive her party’s fortunes in the heart of conservative America. Already, Texas politics has never seen anyone like her: a dynamo with a trailer park-to-Harvard Law story who makes nationwide donors swoon.
But Davis’ chances in the general election in November remain a longshot: she faces a Republican opponent, Greg Abbott, the state’s attorney general, who would be formidable even without the advantage of Texas’ solidly conservative electorate.
Abbott, who uses a wheelchair, has his own compelling against-the-odds biography, personal appeal as a campaigner and proven fundraising power. As the race restarts, he appears to have a significant edge in polls and fundraising.
Davis says she’s undeterred.
"I can see and feel, every day on the campaign trail, an energy in this state around my campaign that’s hard to describe. It’s not like anything I’ve seen in Democratic politics in the last couple of decades," Davis said this week.
Others take a dimmer view.
"It’s not a race," said Ford O’Connell, a Houston native and Republican strategist who was an adviser to U.S. John McCain’s presidential run in 2008. "Essentially this is more about Democrats saying they’re expanding the maps and making baby steps toward progress."
Davis, a state senator from Fort Worth who vaulted to national Democratic stardom after lacing up pink tennis shoes for a nearly 13-hour legislative filibuster against new abortion restrictions, has attracted a whopping 91,000 individual donors since launching her campaign. She’s raised $16 million and, with constant national exposure, has the look of a contender.
But Abbott is already sitting on three times as much campaign cash, and has mostly kept pace with her more recent fundraising hauls. It’s the kind of edge Republicans have enjoyed in winning every governor’s race since 1994 as Texas politics shifted to the right.
Democrats - and Davis- are counting on the state’s booming Hispanic population and the increasingly younger electorate to help tilt the state in their favor. But that landscape is still years from significantly changing. Most Democratic strategists see 2020 as a turning point.
Even with the Hispanic population, Abbott is claiming inroads: his wife would become Texas’ first Hispanic first lady if elected.
Abbott’s well-funded campaign and polished style have helped allay any Republican concerns about the transition from Republican Rick Perry, who has served as governor since December 2000.