Sen. Wendy Davis at announcement. Photos by Bruce Maxwell
Sen. Davis supporters at announcement
Dave Montgomery Austin Correspondent HALTOM CITY — Sen. Wendy Davis today formally declared her candidacy in the 2014 governor’s race, cheered by thousands of euphoric Democrats hoping to reclaim a political office they haven’t held in two decades. “It’s time for a governor who believes that you don’t have to buy a place in Texas’ future,” the Fort Worth Democrat declared. ” It’s time for a governor who believes that the future of Texas belongs to all of us. It’s time for a leader who will put Texans first. That’s the kind of leader I’ve tried to be.” Ground zero for Davis’ long-anticipated announcement was Wiley G. Thomas Coliseum, where the Democratic state senator received her high school diploma more than 30 years ago. “Thirty-two years ago, I walked across this stage, the granddaughter of farmers from Muleshoe, Texas who could only afford to rent the land they farmed. I had no real idea what the future looked like,” Davis said.”. Today, I see it pretty clearly. It’s looking right at me. It’s you. It’s all of you. And all of you deserve to have your voices heard. Because our future is brightest when it’s lit by everyone’s star. “And that’s why, today, I’m proud to announce my candidacy to be the 48th governor of the great state of Texas. Throngs of supporters began gathering hours before Davis’ scheduled remarks around 5 p.m., eager to welcome her into the race as Democrats’ most competitive candidate in years. Democrats haven’t won a statewide office since 1994 and believe Davis has the political muscle and popularity to reverse that trend.
Davis infused her speech with references to her rise from an impoverished background that eventually saw her graduate from Harvard law sschool and become a political and professional success. “My whole life, I’ve seen Texans create better tomorrows for themselves and their families,'” she said in her prepared text. “But I worry that the journey I made is a lot harder and steeper for young Texans today. College is more expensive, the choices for working families are fewer, and far too many young people yearning to continue their own educational journeys are turned down for grants and loans because state leaders have turned a deaf ear to them and blocked their paths. “That’s not what Texas is about. We all know that — because we know that Texas is more than a state. Texas has always been a promise. The promise that where you start has nothing to do with how far you can go. In Austin today, our current leadership thinks promises are just something you make to the people who write big checks. But the promise I’m talking about is bigger than that. It’s the promise of a better tomorrow for everyone. Texas deserves a leader who will protect this promise. Texas deserves a leader who will keep it.”
Davis, a former Fort Worth city councilwoman who represents Senate District 10 in Tarrant County, surged to overnight stardom after waging a filibuster against a Republican-backed abortion restriction bill that was ultimately signed into law. She is frequently compared to the late Gov. Ann Richards, who served from 1991 to 1995 and was the last Democrat to hold the office. “She’s going to win if I have to anything to say about it,” said Valery Guignon of Dallas, who said she moved to Texas from California when Richards was governor “because I wanted to be in the state she was in charge of.” Of Davis, Guignon said. “She’s the best going we’ve had in a long time.” She called the Fort Worth Democrat a candidate “with a lot of guts and a lot of courage.”
Up to 5,000 Texans RSVP’d to the event to hear Davis officially announce a decision that has seemed inevitable for weeks. Others planned “watch parties’ around the state to their candidate long-distance. Bill Berke, a former Denton County Republican chairman from the Reagan era, was also in line to join the Davis brigades. “I’ll vote for Wendy,” said Berke, an 82-year-old retired construction manager who lives in Haltom City. “I’m not going to vote for the Republican fellow.”
The “other fellow” is Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican front-runner for the nomination to succeed outgoing Gov. Rick Perry. A poll on Wedneday by the Texas Lyceum, a statewide non-partisan leadership group, showed Abbott with an eight point lead, with 50 percent of the respondents still undecided. About 20 local Republicans clad in red lined a sidewalk outside the coliseum to protest Davis’ opposition to the abortion bill that Perry signed into law. Tarrant County Republican chairwoman Jennifer Hall said the local party organized the protest to show that Davis “is out of step with mainstream voters.” “We just want people to know that Tarrant County is conservative,” said Hall. Asked about Davis’ chances, Hall said: “I think she’s going to lose.”
Tarrant County is conservative,” said Hall. Asked about Davis’ chances, Hall said: “I think she’s going to lose.”