I had obviously been following the news out of Austin since leaving for a 5700 mile family vacation at the beginning of June, and knew she was planning the maneuver, but nothing could have prepared us for the proceedings we all witnessed nor for the aftermath. It was an epic move to match our epic driving tour of the eastern US and we were fired up.
Listening from a perch above the blue Maine waters of the Atlantic, both my wife and I got an electric sense of possibility that was as thrilling as it was overdue. Texas had been suffering more than a water drought in recent years. It had too suffered a political drought. Tea Party politics had conspired with Tom Delay's 2003 mid-decade gerrymandering to marginalize Texas Democrats and ensure the viability of a host of Right Wing legislation designed to roll back decades of progress in the Lone Star State.
As we followed events that day and into the night, our excitement grew that Wendy Davis could signal a change of fortunes longed for in Texas Democratic politics. Here was a person unafraid to stand up to the bullies in the Capital whose notions of freedom and liberty were so cruel and twisted. A Democrat who was willing to take the big risks involved in pushing back against the mean-spirited, mysoginist and racist politics of David Dewhurst and Rick Perry's Texas Republican brand.
Without rehashing everything that went down with that filibuster and afterward, I will just say a sense of hope and change was developing on the ground in Texas and beyond and was too much to ignore. I was already saying Wendy would run, and telling friends around the country that she was the real deal and that she would become the next Governor of Texas. With her election would be ushered in a new era of progressive influence and political housecleaning in a state so beloved by many and so reviled since George W. Bush left Austin to foist upon the Nation the kind of damaged goods he had delivered in Texas.
Please jump the fancy longhorns for more...
Since that time I have answered many questions from non-Texan friends who want to know if Wendy Davis really has a chance to beat the Republican candidate in the next election. My answer had typically been a guarded "Yes" with qualifications.
Before we heard that Rick Perry
was scared to run against her would not seek an unprecedented fourth term as Governor, the calculus was dicey. He had an enormous war chest that would be almost impossible to match. He had a political and campaign apparatus in place since 2000 that was unrivaled in the state.
True, he had badly damaged his brand with an embarrassing and laughable Presidential campaign, and was deeply unpopular in Texas due to stances on everything from toll roads to Keystone XL to eminent domain, Nonetheless, he was seen as formidable and difficult to unseat. When Perry made clear he would not run, the likeliest candidate became Texas State Attorney General Greg Abbott
With the likelihood of a Davis/Abbott race the dynamics improved but still spelled an uphill battle in a state gerrymandered to maintain deep Red control and squeeze the life out of Democratic efforts. My guarded "yes" became a "hell yes" with qualifications.
Since September I have sensed a shift in public attitudes about Republican control and everything that means. There is a sense here in Texas that things are similar to very early in the Ann Richards campaign. It is tempting to compare Davis and Richards, not because they are women but because of the nature of the women themselves. Davis and Richards share a an intellectual toughness that is native to their ability to lead. Both women are fearless in their willingness to stand up to the parternalistic and mysoginistic old boy politics of Republican Texas. Both are stubborn as hell and passionate about progressive causes.
Clearly it is early and my anecdotal vibes about a shift in Texas is just another opinion, and she has plenty to overcome in a state that's still pretty red. There is no time to waste, so in the interest of helping Wendy please find enclosed this Wendy Davis primer, a list of 5 things I believe people interested in understaning the candidate and her chances need to know.
1) She Drew the Even Number:
Texas election law is quirky. Senators serve four year terms, but in years ending in the number 2, half of all senators must take a two year term and run for reelection in the years ending in the number 4 (crazy huh?). Since all 31 districts were up for election in 2012, Senators had to draw blind numbers, one by one, from a white envelope at the head of the Senate chamber. Evens got two year terms, Odds got four. Davis drew an Even number.
Why is this important? Mostly because it freed her to make a political move without jeopardizing her public commitment to complete her term. With that freedom she can also move forward without the impact of a potential loss on chances for reelection to the Senate. What was her reaction to drawing the short straw?
My top priority is to continue working every day to be the voice of the people of Tarrant County who sent me here to fight for their families. My commitment to restoring $5.4 billion in cuts to public education, to building our economy and fostering good paying jobs, and to ensuring that quality healthcare is available for Texas families is unwavering, regardless of whether I have a two or four year term.2) She knows moderate Republican, Independent and non-partisan white women can be swing voters.
A key part of Ann Richards' success was her appeal to white women voters, and Davis is angling for the same effect. She needs to win big among white voters in general and women are the key. By targeting this demographic, particularly in suburban areas, Davis hopes to capitalize on the growing distaste for the mendacious and hateful politics of Tea Party Republicans. Just like they did for Richards, Wendy Davis hopes non-Democratic women will tell their husbands they are voting for Abbott while secretly pulling the lever for Davis. Given her advocacy for education, workplace equality and healthcare, she is already on familiar ground here.
3) She has skin in the game.
Her filibuster didn't come out of nowhere and reproductive freedoms aren't just a pet issue for Davis. Last year her offices in Fort Worth were firebombed, likely because of her vociferous support for Planned Parenthood as Republicans were trying to strip their funding. If Republicans though she could be intimidated into silence through violence, her actions in June should make clear she won't be. She has the guts to run this race the right way and run to win, while still taking the high road.
“It’s unfortunate when things like this happen in the public arena,” she said. “It reminds us of how important it is for us to remain very civil in our discourse and to work not to foment this kind of anger in our community as we discuss things that are challenges that we all face and care about.”4) Davis has the fourth-most-liberal voting record of the 31 senators in the Texas Senate.
According to a study of Texas Senate voting records done by Mark P. Jones ( James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy’s Fellow in Political Science; Joseph D. Jamail Chair in Latin American Studies and the Chairman of the Department of Political Science at Rice University) Davis is more liberal than four very liberal Senators, John Whitmire of Houston, Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa of McAllen, Carlos Uresti of San Antonio, and Eddie Lucio Jr. of Brownsville. This will be a cudgel Abbott wields in a general election. It is ready-made for sound bytes and we can expect to hear it again and again. Since we all know running away is worse than facing it, one hopes Davis and her people are already working on how to mitigate the inevitable nature of this talking point. Davis supporters need to know this is coming.
5) Davis has a record of fighting State corruption, and it's bipartisan.
Wendy Davis authored a Senate bill, S.B.1390, to audit Gov. Rick Perry's Texas Enterprise Fund, a political slush fund worth half a billion dollars and change. Getting Republicans to help pass a bill targeting the Governor's slop trough is not just a feat of bipartisan success, it means she is acutely aware of the way things work in Texas and she was preemptively targeting Perry assuming he would run for reelection. This gutsy move is also a problem for Greg Abbott by association, and shows that Davis has what it takes to play real hardball.
How bad is the corruption? Pretty freaking bad. Here's just a taste, but click all the links to satisfy your curiosity.
Given the Texas Enterprise Fund's record, Perry and his allies may have reason to fear a higher level of accountability. In 2010, the Texas Observer found that since the fund's inception in 2003, 20 of the 55 Texas Enterprise Fund grant recipients had given money directly to Perry's campaign or the Republican Governor's Association.--------------------------
With Republicans and the Tea Party on the ropes and reeling from the current budget and debt limit crisis in Washington, Democrats need to be prepared to fight it out at the State and local level. I absolutely believe that Texas is a key to turning other Red states blue and I am asking Daily Kos readers to help keep the focus on winning these elections for all of our sakes. Please take the time to read and rec all diaries for local and state issues and please Tweet and share these Texas election diaries on Facebook and other social media.
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Thanks for reading, y'all!