It’s the first day of Texas state senator Wendy R. Davis’s campaign for governor. The Democrat announced her intentions, but can she loosen the GOP stronghold on the governor’s office?
According to one political observer in Texas, the Fort Worth legislator has a chance because of her gender, her personal narrative and the financial backing of the Democratic Party.
“She has a shot because she’s a female,” said Victoria A. Farrar-Myers, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. “She’s got a shot because she’s got a good story, and she’s got a shot because she’s got the national party willing to spend the money necessary and provide the infrastructure that’ll be necessary to pull off a grassroots campaign that frankly [President] Obama showed us can work and can beat any candidate against all odds.”
Farrar-Myers said that what Davis has done with her filibusters, “the first one on education, and the second one, obviously, which got a lot of attention on the right-to-choose — I think really provide the Democrat Party with an exciting candidate who has a very interesting story, an American dream kind of story. And it’s also a story of how women can work themselves up the ranks, especially in a state where politics have been controlled by white males.”
Now that Davis is in the Texas gubernatorial race, expect a marathon of political theater until the 2014 gubernatorial elections. Both parties were “eager for this race to happen,” Farrar-Myers said. “They see this as an important race for the control of Texas going forward.”
Davis jumped right in Thursday by saying: “Texans deserve better than failed leaders who dole out favors to friends and cronies behind closed doors.”
She also said that Texans don’t want their capitol in Austin to mirror the deadlock in Washington, D.C., and positioned herself as the legislator who can work across party lines:
“I didn’t have a partisan affiliation by my name, and I didn’t govern with one either. When I meet folks who want the same thing but disagree about how to get there, I invite them to sit down at the table and hash out a solution working together with respect and an open mind,” she said. “Real leaders know that our problems deserve real solutions. That’s the approach I brought to Austin.”
A Davis win wouldn’t be easy. “This is going to be a hard-fought one,” Farrar-Myers said. “Already Republicans are hitting her strong on her pro-choice stance and certainly we do have a very large tea party, 9/12-er population.”
Republicans hold an advantage, but are countering Davis’s run nevertheless, trying to define her story their way.
TheRealWendy.com site promises to give Texans “a chance to learn the real story of Wendy Davis and about her out-of-touch politics more suited for California.”
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is considered the GOP frontrunner for the governor’s office. He released a video, hours before Davis announced her decision, about “Obama and his allies.” Abbott also tweeted: “Senator Wendy Davis wants to bring Obama’s agenda to Texas. Say NO! Join me today.”
Tom Pauken, former chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission, is also vying for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. While he “disagrees strongly with her liberal views,” Pauken said in a statement that Davis is “very intelligent and will be a formidable candidate in this race.”
And although Davis didn’t mention abortion in her speech on Thursday, that hasn’t stopped anti-abortion groups from reminding voters about her summer filibuster fighting abortion restrictions. Protesters stood outside the Wiley G. Thomas Coliseum in Haltom City, Texas where she spoke Thursday. Texas Right to Life will release radio spots in English and Spanish this weekend describing Davis as an “abortion zealot.”
How each political party crafts its story for Texans will make all the difference at the polls. Because in the battle of political narratives, whether in Washington or in Texas, the one with the best crafted story – and votes – wins.