Will Wendy Davis run for governor of Texas?

Wendy Davis’ conundrum:  Her heightened profile because of her pro-choice filibuster makes her a credible possibility as the Democratic party’s next gubernatorial appointee to run against Rick Perry.  But if she runs, she is likely to lose the race and also lose her State Senate seat.

Ross Ramsey, the editor of the Texas Tribune, has this analysis:

Wendy Davis is never going to see a better moment for a statewide run for office, even though the odds of a Democrat winning statewide in Texas could not be worse.

She would almost certainly lose.

There are always more reasons not to run than to run. But she has emerged as the predominant voice on an issue that pits the party in power against the party out of power…

Vexing the Republicans, frankly, is a quality she shares with none of the Democrats who have run for governor of Texas since Ann Richards: She galvanizes her supporters and makes the other team crazy. Garry Mauro, Tony Sanchez Jr., Chris Bell and Bill White had varying combinations of money, experience, skill and leadership ability. Together, they had almost enough charisma for one candidate, which made them easier for Texans to disregard. Mauro got 31.2 percent of the vote; Sanchez got 40 percent; Bell, with two major independent candidates also in the race, got 29.8 percent; and White got 42.3 percent.

Rick Perry has that same quality. His opposition can’t believe his success. They find him both irritating and hard to ignore. And the Republicans haven’t stopped voting for him since his first race under their banner in 1990.

Davis would probably be defeated in a statewide race…

She has no statewide network, and her political party doesn’t have the kind of infrastructure that parties are supposed to provide to candidates just coming into their own.

Money is a problem, though her ability to raise funds in Texas and, more importantly, from elsewhere in the country, rose tenfold over the last week. She has a hot hand right now and could put some money together.

The Republicans have the governor — if he decides to run again… political infrastructure, lots of money ($18 million at the end of the year) and a party behind him that hasn’t lost a statewide election since 1994.

A bettor would have to go with the Republicans.

The Democrats, meanwhile, need to steal a page from the other party. The Texas GOP ran decent candidates for years through the late 1970s and into the 1980s, hoping that one might break through. Most lost. Most expected to. Bill Clements, a rich oilman, broke through the wall unexpectedly in 1978, and a scandal on the Texas Supreme Court started helping some Republican judges succeed on the ballot.

Their other candidates — the George Strakes and the Rob Mosbachers and so on — never made it to statewide office. The odds changed as the state changed, largely in reaction to national politics. Part of the Republican success of the moment in Texas is tied to the unpopularity of Barack Obama. Every Republican on the ticket, or who wants to be on the ticket, has the president in the first or second paragraph of every press release and fundraising appeal.

2014 would be challenging even if the Democrats were somewhat competitive.

Davis and her advisers have to weigh all of that. The party elders, if they are still talking to each other, have to figure out how to get candidates on the ballot who can actually get some public attention and keep the argument going — even if they lose their elections.

It would be better for Davis to get this sort of acclaim from Democrats at a time when Democrats had a decent shot at office in Texas. It’s her bad luck that she’s the fastest runner on a team that can’t seem to find its way to the track.

Some observations of my own:  I wouldn’t pretend to know a scintilla of what Ross Ramsey knows about Texas politics.  But I would argue that Barack Obama’s unpopularity in the sate is less a cause but rather a symptom of why a Democrat would face an uphill battle to be elected governor.  Those would include:  The long-term, three-decade long trending of the state to red over decades (although some predict the state turning increasingly purple).  The outsized influence of the Texas Association of Business (TAB) and other interest groups that fund Perry and other conservative Republican candidates.  Tom Delay’s successful and illegal scheme to take over the state legislature, which in turn also allowed the legislature to reapportion the state U.S. House seats, consolidating power further for conservatives.  (After engaging in money laundering and illegally accepting corporate money to fund the scheme,  Republicans gained control of the Texas House of Representatives for the first time in 130 years.  The legislature then  redrew he state’s congressional districts in 2003 in such a way that Texas Republicans gained five more Republicans seats in Congress in 2004.  Not much understood about that effort was not just that it led to a Republican take over a and consolidation of power of the legislature, but that Delay, the TAB, and others involved eased out more moderate Republicans for much more conservative state legislators.   Texas’ politics have never been the same since.)  And Rick Perry’s formidable fundraising advantage– further enhanced by the alleged propensity by Perry and his top aides to cut ethical corners to raise campaign funds, as demonstrated by this story I wrote with Peter Henderson for Reuters.

By even running for governor and losing, Davis would enhance her profile, both state-wide and nationally, even more a reason she might just run.  But earlier today and tonight, I either spoke or emailed with three former or current legislators who knows Davis, and two state legislative staffers who either know her or have worked with her.  The majority view– or near consensus– is that Davis loves being a legislator.  They don’t think she would too easily give that up.

Update (7/2/13)– What if she were to run again Perry in 2014?

According to Politico:

Despite spending a week in the national news for her high-profile filibuster, Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis faces an uphill battle if she were to run against Gov. Rick Perry in 2014, a new poll finds.

Voters prefer Perry over the Democrat in a gubernatorial matchup next year 53 percent to 39 percent, according to Democratic firm Public Policy Polling’s survey.

Perry would also best Democratic San Antonio mayor Julian Castro, 50-43; Houston mayor Annise Parker, 52-35; and Bill White, Perry’s last general-election opponent, 50-40…

Perry has not said whether he plans to run for reelection. His decision was expected by July 1, but he said it would be delayed after he called the state Legislature back into a special session. If he does not run, Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott is considered a likely nominee by many in Austin.

Those Democrats would not fare much better in a match-up with Abbott for governor next year, the poll says. Voters would prefer Abbott to Davis, 48-40; Castro, 48-34; Parker, 50-31; and White, 48-36.

Perry to say on Monday whether he is running for re-election.

–Murray Waas



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