JIM VERTUNO, Associated Press PAUL J. WEBER, Associated Press
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Democrat Wendy Davis, a state senator who catapulted to national prominence this summer with a filibuster over access to abortion, is running for Texas governor.
Two Democrats with knowledge of her decision told The Associated Press on Thursday that Davis would announce her candidacy next week. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not want to pre-empt her official campaign launch on Oct. 3, which will take place in her home district of Fort Worth.
A Davis campaign had been widely expected, but she has held off making her decision public. Davis campaign spokesman Hector Nieto would not confirm that she is running.
“As Sen. Davis told grass-roots supporters last week via email, she’s made a decision and she looks forward to making her decision public on Oct. 3,” Nieto said.
Thursday afternoon, a message on Davis’ Twitter feed said, “A week from today, I’m announcing something big. Can you chip in now to show the strength of our grassroots network?”
Hours later, her campaign released a statement saying the announcement will come in the Fort Worth suburb of Haltom City at the Wiley G. Thomas Coliseum, where Davis received her high school diploma.
Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott announced his candidacy this summer and is considered the early favorite to succeed Gov. Rick Perry, who is not seeking re-election after 14 years in office.
No other Democrat has expressed interest in running for governor in Texas, where a Democrat hasn’t won a statewide office in nearly 20 years. Experts say Davis, 50, would need to raise $40 million to mount a serious campaign, and Davis has spent the past three months attending fundraisers nationwide to build her bankroll.
Davis must raise money quickly to compete with Abbott, who has spent the past several years planning a 2014 run and has socked away more than $20 million.
For months, Democrats have urged Davis to run and reinvigorate a party that hasn’t won a statewide office since 1994. That was also the final year of Texas Gov. Ann Richards, the white-haired spitfire who was the last Democrat to run the state.
Davis’ progressive politics and charisma on the campaign trail have long made her popular among Texas Democrats. Yet speculation that she might run for governor was little more than occasional rumors before her filibuster in the Texas Capitol on June 25 made her an overnight political sensation.
Standing in pink tennis shoes that have now become iconic, Davis stood for nearly 13 hours during a filibuster that temporarily blocked new statewide abortion restrictions. Tens of thousands of people across the country watched the filibuster live on YouTube. Even President Barack Obama took notice, tweeting from his official account, “Something special is happening in Austin tonight.”
At the end of the filibuster, hundreds of demonstrators who had jammed the Senate gallery shouted down the lawmakers to disrupt the final vote. Perry called another special session, and for the next two weeks, thousands of anti-abortion and abortion-rights demonstrators crowded the Capitol. Davis’ supporters wore orange while anti-abortion groups wore blue as they chanted, sang and prayed in the building hallways and meeting rooms.
Republicans have held the governor’s office ever since Richards was defeated by George W. Bush in 1994. The GOP has also held every statewide office in Texas since 1998 and the controlled the Legislature since 2003.
Democratic state Rep. Rafael Anchia said Thursday that Davis is “straight out of central casting” as a bright and telegenic candidate.
“No disrespect to any of the other candidates, but the excitement that Wendy Davis has generated in this state has not been seen since Ann Richards,” Anchia said.
Davis is a relative newcomer in statewide politics. She was first elected to the Senate in 2008 after spending nearly a decade on the Fort Worth City Council. She narrowly won re-election in 2012 against a Republican challenger in what was one of the state’s most costly and bruising races.
Republican Tom Pauken, a former state party chairman and former head of the Texas Workforce Commission, is also running for the GOP nomination.