Dave Montgomery Austin Correspondent DALLAS – Accepting the 2014 Democratic gubernatorial nomination, State Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth vowed Friday night to fight for “every single hardworking Texan” and portrayed Republican adversary Greg Abbott as a politically motivated insider who is “not fit to be your governor.” In a rousing acceptance speech at the Texas Democratic Convention, Davis savaged Abbott with some of the harshest attacks of the campaign, saying Abbott’s record as state attorney general “fly in the face of Texas values. “It’s about time we had a governor who fights hard for all hardworking Texans,” Davis asserted. “And I’m running for governor to make sure that the Texas of Tomorrow leads America forward. “Texas has come a long way. But today, 14 years into this new century, I believe we’re at a turning point. And this election will determine whether the Texas of Tomorrow will work for all hardworking Texans and all Texas communities or whether it’ll be held back by the old ways of the good-old-boy network that has simply taken us as far as it can.”
State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio, the party’s nominee for lieutenant governor, preceded Davis and delivered an equally hard-hitting attack on her Republican rival, state Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston. Patrick rode a wave of Tea Party support to defeat incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the Republican run-off last month. The addresses by the two women at top of the state Democratic ticket was the high point of a three-day convention that ends Saturday with speeches by other candidates and adoption of a party platform. Democratic leaders described the platform as a moderate, common-sense document addressing the needs of working class Texans, in contrast with what they denounced as an extremist, Tea Party inspired platform that Republicans crafted at their convention early this month in Fort Worth. The over-riding goal of the convention was aimed at igniting the party’s base and inspiring a massive turn-out-the-vote effort heading into the Nov. 4 general election in the face of an undisputed advantage by Republicans. Democrats haven’t won a statewide contest in two decades but Davis’ star-powered emergence as the gubernatorial candidate in October has stirred hopes that Democrats may be able to reclaim the governor’s mansion for the first time since Gov. Ann Richards left office in January of 1995. Davis vaulted into the race after wijnning nationwide attention for her June, 2013, filibuster against a Republican-led abortion regulation bill. But polls have consistently shown Abbott leading Davis by more than 10 points, leading to speculation that some of the early enthusiasm surrounding Davis candidacy may be waning.
Democratic Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa vigorously disputed that premise, saying Davis remains a highly popular candidate on the campaign trail. I don’t think that’s the case at all,” said Hinojosa. “She’s a rock star.” To illustrate his point, Hinjosa cited the hundreds of women who turned out for Davis and Van de Putte at a caucus earlier in the day to spotlight the party’s push for the women’s vote, considered one of the most critical voting demographics in the fall campaign. “We are a force to be reckoned with and we are going to do some reckoning on Nov. 4,” Davis told participant in the Democratic Women’s Caucus, calling on her supporters to charge out of the convention in an unprecedented door-knocking and phone-calling campaign to push her candidacy to victory. “We’re not afraid of a little hard-work,” she asserted. In her much-anticipated prime time speech before more than 5,000 spectators at the Dallas Convention Center, Davis wasted no time in going on the offensive against Abbott, much to the delight of her audience.
“As much as Mr. Abbott likes to talk about his Working Texans Plan, he hasn’t done a thing that works for Texans,” Davis said. “You see, Mr. Abbott cut his teeth politically as part of the good old boys network that’s had their hands on the reins for decades. He’s been in their service and their debt since he ran for office, and as a judge and a lawyer he’s spent his career defending insiders, protecting insiders, stacking the deck for insiders and making hardworking Texans pay the price.” Outlining specifics, Davis said Abbott, through his actions and decisions as attorney general, has fought to deny basic health services to Texas women and has protected payday lenders “who gouge families by charging unlimited interest rates and fees on payday loans. “Texans expect a strong leader. They need a worker. They need a fighter. That is not Greg Abbott,” she asserted. “If he were your lawyer, you’d fire him on the spot. Oh…wait … he is your lawyer and we are going to fire him on November 4, 2014.” By contrast, Davis promised to stand up for struggling Texas wage-earners who she said have been neglected by the politics of outgoing Republican Gov. Rick Perry and other Republican leaders. She laid out a broad agenda that included full access to health care, greater educational opportunities, and an aggtressive commitment to increase jobs and address a shortage of skilled workers. Davis also laced the address with warm tributes to her family, including her mother and two daughters, and recounted her frequently told narrative about being a struggling single mom before going on to a Harvard education and a law degree. She credited her grandmother in the Panhandle for instilling her with core values such as the value of hard work. “Every day, my grandmother woke up thinking about the 14 children she had to feed rather than thinking about herself. She led a life that taught her to appreciate others and put them first. “And, in turn, I made sure my children would have it better than I had it. But under Greg Abbott, my grandchildren – your grandchildren – will be in danger of becoming the first generation of Texans in history to have it worse off than their parents. “So we can’t afford another term of insiders.”