What Wendy Davis needs to do

September 18, 2013
Sen. Wendy Davis, D-FortWorth, sits at her desk after the Texas Senate passes an abortion bill, Friday, July 12, 2013, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Sen. Wendy Davis, D-FortWorth, sits at her desk after the Texas Senate passes an abortion bill, Friday, July 12, 2013, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

As Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) inches right up to the edge of declaring her intention to run for governor, both she and her supporters know she needs two things to have a serious shot at the post: tens of millions of dollars, and broad policy platform that transcends the issue of abortion.

When she sent an e-mail to her supporters Wednesday morning, Davis -- who garnered national attention this summer for fighting a sweeping antiabortion bill in her state -- wrote she will be "answering the question" of what's next for her career on Oct. 3. But before making her formal announcement, she posed a question of her own: "Do you have any friends or family who would like to be among the first to know?"

In other words, Davis is working to develop a national fundraising network before formally launching her bid.  Davis has raised money in Washington, D.C. as well as her home state, and according to Texas state records had received just over $1 million by the end of June. That puts her far behind Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is eyeing the post and has amassed a $20 million war chest.

Stephanie Schriock, president of the Democratic political action committee EMILY's List, estimates anyone seriously seeking the Texas governorship would have to raise between $35 million and $40 million.

"If she decides to run, I really do believe Wendy will have the resources she needs to run a winning campaign," Schriock said in an interview Wednesday, adding that she has seen an "unprecedented level of excitment" among her group's contributors at the prospect of a Davis bid. "We are excited and ready to go."

Davis campaign spokesperson Hector Nieto declined to elaborate Wednesday on the senator's fundraising plans. "Right now we won’t be making any comments with regard to fundraising," her said. "We’re just focused on our Oct. 3 announcement, with grassroots support."

Even if Davis can attract the millions she needs, she will need to fashion a broader message beyond the work on reproductive rights that catapulted her into the spotlight this summer.

As the Republican Governors Association spokesman Jon Thompson framed the issue, “If Democrats want to nominate an out-of-touch, pro-abortion candidate who likes to spend her time fundraising in Washington, D.C. with [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi, they are going to quickly discover Wendy Davis' path to victory is non-existent."

Davis has already signaled her intention to move beyond the question of abortion, talking about the fact that the first filibuster she waged was on an education bill, rather than one focused on access to reproductive care.

Democratic Governors Association spokesman Danny Kanner said Davis has worked on a range of issues while in office, including the economy and education.

"For her entire career, Wendy Davis has been a champion for middle-class families in need of good-paying jobs and world-class schools," Kanner said. "That's exactly what Texas needs now, and Democrats across the state and country would be energized by her candidacy."

Juliet Eilperin is a White House correspondent for The Washington Post, covering domestic and foreign policy as well as the culture of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. She is the author of two books—one on sharks, and another on Congress, not to be confused with each other—and has worked for the Post since 1998.
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