On Thursday, Politico reported that State Sen. Wendy Davis (D) and her advisers have “begun informing influential Democrats” that Davis is preparing to make a run for the Texas governor’s mansion. Davis’ potential gubernatorial run has been highly anticipated ever since she rose to national prominence after filibustering an anti-abortion bill for 11 hours this summer.
Many outside observers have been skeptical about Davis’ chances in the 2014 race, pointing out that Texas is a deeply red state that hasn’t had a Democratic governor in nearly 20 years. Others have disagreed, saying that Davis has already helped shift the “climate of politics” in the Lone Star State.
Over the summer, the thousands of reproductive rights activists who stood alongside Davis and rallied against the package of stringent abortion restrictions made the case that Texas isn’t necessarily the lost cause that East Coast liberals assume it is. Indeed, the fact that so many people showed up to protest at the state house was surprising to many people in other parts of the country. Even if Davis’ bid for governor isn’t ultimately successful, it could do similar things to help symbolically shift some of the outside perceptions of Texas.
Right after Davis’ dramatic filibuster, Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards suggested as much. “I’m so proud of her. I’m proud that she’s a Texan,” Richards told Texas Monthly at the end of June. “I think it gives people hope and of a different kind of politics, a different view of the world than Governor Perry has represented.”
While Perry has occupied the governor’s mansion, Texas certainly hasn’t seemed like such a friendly place for women. The state’s family planning budget has been slashed, Planned Parenthood clinics have been defunded, health clinics have been shuttered, and new abortion restrictions have been piled on. In the same Texas Monthly interview, Richards noted, “Rick Perry’s disregard for women, and essentially trying to make his own political point at the expense of women in the state who have very little access to healthcare as it is — it’s not any tradition of the Texas that I grew up in.”
Richards witnessed another type of state firsthand. Her mother, Ann Richards, was Texas’ governor between 1990 and 1994 — considered by many Texans to be the first woman to win the governor’s mansion in her own right. (The Lone Star State was home to the second female governor in the nation, elected in 1925, but she essentially ran on a joint platform with her husband.) Ann Richards ran her administration as the “New Texas” and appointed more women and people of color to state boards and commissions than any previous governor had.
At the end of her first term, Richards was defeated by the future president George W. Bush. But upon her passing in 2006, the Houston Chronicle noted that her time in the governor’s mansion “symbolically broke down gender barriers for a generation of Texas women who were seeking professional careers.”
For a new generation of Texas women, Davis’ decision to make a run for governor could help do the same.
Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said she’s “thrilled” about the news that Davis will likely jump in the race for Texas governor. “As a Texan, I’m gratified to see a great woman from my home state blazing the trail to show that standing for women’s rights is a winning position,” Hogue told ThinkProgress. “When Texas women needed a champion, Wendy Davis gave it her all and then some.”
On October 3, Davis officially announced her decision to run for governor. She’s the first major Democrat to jump into the race.