The Washington Post

Why Wendy Davis shouldn’t run for governor of Texas

Note: We originally posted this item on Aug. 7. We are resurfacing it today amid the news that Sen. Davis appears to be on the verge of announcing a run for governor. 

On Tuesday, we presented the argument for why Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) should run for governor.

Now, it's time to do the opposite.

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

As Davis considers whether to run for governor or for reelection to the state Senate (the only two possibilities, according to Davis), here are four reasons why the former option wouldn't be smart.

* Democrats simply don't do well in Texas gubernatorial races. Remember all the hype about Bill White in 2010? He ended up losing big. The fact of the matter is that a Democrat has not been elected governor of the Lone Star State since 1990, when Ann Richards won a competitive race. And there hasn't been as close a contest since. While changing demographics in the state could bode well for Democrats in the long term, for now, winning the governorship is still a very tall task for them.

* Two words: Greg Abbott. As if Texas's strong conservative tilt and Democrats' poor track record wouldn't present Davis with enough of a challenge in the 2014 governor's race, along came Attorney General Greg Abbott (R). Abbott is running for governor in 2014, and he's the overwhelming favorite to win. Abbott has raised heaps of cash, is very well-connected and is staunchly conservative -- a combination that makes him a near lock to succeed Gov. Rick Perry (R). So if Davis were to run next year, she would be mounting a major underdog campaign with little chance of actual success. And that alone is a big reason for Davis to stay put.

* Attack ads and more attack ads. Right now, Davis has her share of both fans and critics. But there is not a full-scale war to defeat her like there would be if she was a candidate for governor. Abbott's millions of dollars have to go somewhere, and it's a good bet that a healthy sum would be spent on ads brutalizing Davis's image. At the end of what would likely be a losing campaign, Davis would no longer have her state Senate platform, and her image would no doubt have taken a hit. It's potentially a high price to pay.

* Davis's district is safe from a GOP push to reshape it. Davis won big earlier this year when a Republican push to reshape her district came to an end. Democrats now think they can compete there, even without her (though it would unquestionably be more difficult). On the one hand, that means it's okay for Davis to run for governor without Democrats having to automatically cough up her seat. On the other, it means if Davis declines to run for governor, she can run for reelection on friendly terrain. If she wins, she will continue to have her platform in the state Senate as she looks for a favorable opportunity to move up the ladder in the future. It's not a bad position to be in, especially when the alternative is the wrong side of a fight with Abbott.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.



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Sean Sullivan · September 18, 2013

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