Dave Montgomery Austin Correspondent
AUSTIN – State Sen. Wendy Davis is expected to formally announce her candidacy for governor next week when she unveils her political plans at a Haltom City coliseum where she received her high school diploma 32 years ago.
The Davis campaign on Thursday announced Wiley G. Thomas Coliseum, which has a seating capacity of over 3,000, as the venue for the Oct. 3 event as reports circulated that the Fort Worth state senator has begun signaling her intentions in private conversations with fellow Democrats. “Everybody I talk to who is close to her says she’s definitely running but I have not heard directly from her,” former Texas Congressman Martin Frost, who is now a lawyer in Alexandria, Va., told the Business Press. “I’ll help in any way I can.”
Texas Democratic Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa acknowledged Friday that he has been in contact with Davis as she moves toward announcing her decision but he declined to reveal the content of those discussions. “I can just tell you that we’ve talked and our discussions have been confidential,” he told the Business Press. “ I’m not saying one way or another whether she has told us she is going to run,” he said. “We’ve been invited to be at the announcement at her old High school in Fort Worth and I’m going to be there.” Politico and the Associated Press both reported Thursday that Davis has told influential Texas Democrats that she plans to run for governor. Davis campaign spokesman Hector Nieto declined to confirm the reports but acknowledged that Davis has made a decision.
“On October 3, I’ll announce my future plans at the same place where I received my high school diploma,” Davis tweeted Thursday. “Join us.” Davis, a 1981 Richland High School graduate who went on to become a Harvard-educated lawyer and two-term state senator, has been moving toward the governor’s race after becoming an overnight political star by filibustering a Republican-backed abortion bill in June. Davis spent nearly three months weighing her options as she considered running for governor or seeking re-election to her Tarrant County senatorial district. Attorney General Greg Abbott, who has raised over $21 million, is heavily favored to win the Republican nomination against GOP challenger Tom Pauken, a former state Republican chairman. Democrats acknowledge that Davis would face a steep challenge but believe that her star quality offers their party its best hope in years of retaking an office that Democrats last held in 1995. Strategists say Davis would need between $35 million to $45 million to wage a credible campaign. Pauken responded to the reports that Davis is already in the race by portraying himself as the best-qualified Republican to run against her.
“While I disagree philosophically with Wendy Davis, I recognize that she is a smart woman with a large number of determined supporters. This will pose a significant challenge to whoever is the GOP nominee in November,” said Pauken. “I believe that I will be the best candidate to take on Ms. Davis because I am not afraid to debate her on our contrasting points of views, conservative versus liberal, on the issues facing our state.” Pauken said Davis “will attempt to campaign as a populist against Austin insiders” but called her “part of the problem and not a solution.” The Associated Press said two Democrats with knowledge of Davis’ decision confirmed that Davis would announce her candidacy for governor at Thursday’s Haltom City event. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not want to pre-empt her official campaign launch, the AP reported. Politico, quoting multiple sources familiar with Davis’ conversations, said Davis has begun informing Democrats of her intentions to run for governor.
State Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, told the Business Press that Davis called her within the last two weeks and asked: “If I run (for governor), will you support me.” Farrar said she told Davis: “Of course. I’m chomping at the bits. We’re just waiting for the word.” The Texas Democratic Party has been openly urging Davis to enter the race with a “Run Wendy Run” appeal on its Website. “I’ve been telling people we’ve got to be ready to go,” said Farrar. Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, the number two member of the Democratic leadership team in the House, said he hasn’t been told definitely that Davis is a candidate but predicted that she would be a formidable contender if she climbs into the race. Davis, he said, “will energize voters across the state and appeal to many independent and Republican voters who would like to see a new direction and change of leadership.” “ I think I would be totally surprised if she didn’t announce for governor next week,” said Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth. “You can put two and two together. “