We won’t know for sure whether media darling Wendy Davis plans to abandon her relatively safe state senate seat for a chance to run against Greg Abbott in 2014’s gubernatorial race in Texas, but one lobbyist apparently has heard the decision already. Get ready for Davis to toss her hat — or her pink shoes — in the ring, in an attempt to nationalize the state race (via LifeNews):
Credible sources tell me that Sen. Wendy Davis will run for Governor in 2014 and not seek reelection to Texas Senate District 10. It will set up a high stakes match-up with Attorney General Greg Abbott in the November 4, 2014, general election.
Sen. Davis believes that she faces a tough race regardless of whether she seeks reelection to the Senate or runs for Governor. In 2010, Gov. Rick Perry received 52.7% of the vote in SD 10 compared to 44.6% for Mayor Bill White. In 2012, Gov. Romney defeated President Obama in SD 10 53.3% to 45.4%.
Sen. Davis has been elected twice in SD 10, so it clearly is a winnable race — but tough. Sen. Davis is now a national figure for Texas Democrats, and a senate reelection run would draw in national money both for and against her. If she is going to have a tough nationalized race, she would prefer it be for Governor.
Are Robert Miller’s sources credible? We’ll see soon enough, but his reasoning is solid, at least in terms of the gubernatorial race. For the state Senate race, I’m not so sure. It seems rather unlikely that Republicans will conduct a national fundraising tour to unseat a Democrat in a state Senate that Republicans already control with veto-proof majorities — a supermajority that can end a filibuster from a Democrat within hours, as the GOP did before protesters hijacked the legislature at the end of the session in June. If this was one of the rarer 2013 races, it might make sense just as a way to prime the pump for 2014 fundraising, but both Republicans and Democrats will have far larger national priorities in 2014 than this state Senate district.
On the other hand, Democrats have almost no hope at all of winning the gubernatorial election without nationalizing it for support. Republicans have a firm grip on power at the state level as well as in presidential elections, as the balance in the legislature demonstrates. Democrats’ only hope of success would be to put this race on a pedestal and hope for an avalanche of donations based on Davis’ notoriety, which was amplified beyond rationality by the national news media this summer. There aren’t many Democrats in Texas with Davis’ national profile.
Otherwise, this is what Democrats face in 2014:
The last Democrat to be elected Texas Governor was Ann Richards in 1990. Since then, the Democratic nominee has received the following percentage of the vote: 1994 – Richards 45.7%; 1998 – Mauro 31.2%; 2002 – Sanchez 40%; 2006 – Bell 29.8%; 2010 – White 42.3%. Public Policy Polling released a poll July 2, 2013, showing General Abbott leading Sen. Davis 48% to 40%, and the same poll had Gov. Perry leading Sen. Davis 53% to 39%.
If nothing else, a big donor response could force the GOP to spend its own national resources in Texas to bolster Abbott and deny them the ability to shift those funds into other races. That still seems unlikely to happen, though, even with the opportunity Davis’ 15 minutes of fame provides. Democrats will be spending most of their effort into salvaging enough red-state seats in the US Senate to deny Republicans a majority. The Texas gubernatorial race will be an expensive luxury for Democrats in 2014, no matter how attractive they believe a Davis candidacy might be to their deep-pocket donors outside of Texas.
Davis might well run for the top spot, and Democrats might be wooing her with promises of big support from donors, but in the end Davis will have to do most of the work herself in Texas — and attempting to block a bill supported by 62% of Texas voters won’t win her many more votes in the end than Bill White got the last time around.