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Wendy Davis hires veteran Democratic operative Karin Johanson

Texas Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Wendy Davis has hired a veteran Democratic political operative to oversee her long-shot bid for Texas governor.

Davis announced Sunday that she has hired Karin Johanson, who helped orchestrate the 2006 Democratic takeover of the U.S. House and most recently served as campaign manager for Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.). The announcement comes a little more than three weeks after she formally launched her bid for governor.

Johanson served as executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee during the 2006 election cycle, overseeing a multimillion dollar turnout operation. She also once worked as chief of staff to House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and most recently has worked at the Dewey Square Group, a Democratic political consulting shop.

A 2006 Washington Post profile described Johanson as “a political junkie who has been toiling in the backwaters of Democratic politics for more than 30 years” and the counterweight to then-Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), who led the DCCC during the 2006 cycle.

A little-known state senator until this summer, Davis, 50, earned national acclaim when she mounted a nearly 13-hour filibuster of one of the nation’s toughest set of abortion restrictions. The restrictions later became law.

In the wake of the attention, Davis spent much of the summer consolidating Democratic support behind her uphill bid to succeed Republican Gov. Rick Perry, who is stepping down after next year. The state hasn’t elected a Democratic governor since 1990 and the last time a Democrat was elected statewide was 1994.

But Davis raised more than $1 million by the end of June – a notable haul for a Texas Democrat, but far short of the $20 million campaign war chest amassed by the GOP frontrunner, Attorney General Greg Abbott.

Even if Davis fails to win back the state house for Democrats, party leaders and operatives expect that her campaign will generate support among liberal, women and Latino voters, who would also vote for down-ballot Democratic candidates at the local, county and state level and help replenish the party’s political bench for future races.


Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.

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