WILL WEISSERT, Associated Press
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – Democrat Wendy Davis insisted Tuesday she’ll break her party’s two-decade Texas losing streak and win the governor’s race, saying turnout from long-disillusioned voters will be stronger than expected and enough to overcome her opponent’s sizeable leads in campaign cash and opinion polls.
“In November, we will win and the people know it,” Davis told about 100 cheering supporters at a Democratic campaign gathering in Austin.
A Democrat hasn’t captured statewide office in Texas since 1994 and poll after poll has shown Davis struggling to make up ground against heavily favored Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott. In comments to reporters a short time later, Davis said, “The polls are going to go back and forth and up and down, and I’ll leave it to the pundits to determine what that means to them.”
“I trust the voters of Texas to understand why this race is so important and I believe that they are showing up and I believe they’re going to vote,” Davis said.
Abbott’s campaign had no immediate response.
Stronger-than-expected voter turnout will be vital if Davis is going to stay competitive. Battleground Texas, a group led by former staffers from President Barack Obama’s 2008 re-election campaign, is trying to turn a fiercely red state blue by mobilizing women and a booming Hispanic population, as well as other minorities.
So far, the only litmus test for those efforts came during the March primaries, when turnout was low and, though Davis easily captured her party’s nomination, she suffered an embarrassment by losing some South Texas border counties to an obscure, 71-year-old challenger.
Davis became a rising Democratic star nationally by staging a 12 plus-hour filibuster last summer that temporarily blocked a law imposing strict new restrictions on abortions statewide. Since then, she’s remained a fundraising powerhouse, announcing she’d raked in $11.2 million from late February through June.
Still, Abbott reported raising nearly as much over the same period and began last month with $36 million in campaign cash – about triple what Davis has.
On Tuesday, Davis blasted Abbott as a “political insider,” claiming he’s used the attorney general’s office to side with big donors in the state’s insurance and hospital industries, rather than ordinary Texans. Davis said Abbott intervened in a lawsuit on behalf of a hospital whose chairman is a donor and involving a doctor accused of injuring and even killing patients, and that he sided with another big donor, Farmers Insurance Company, in a legal dispute with homeowners.
“It’s not acceptable that the governor’s office is for sale,” Davis said.
Abbott’s campaign countered that Davis was the real insider, chiding her for collecting large donations from Texas trial lawyers who have opposed GOP-backed caps on state jury awards in civil cases, as well as major supporters in California and elsewhere outside Texas.
“Greg Abbott’s unmatched record of fighting for Texans and enforcing the law without fear or favor has forced Sen. Davis to construct a fantasy script that even her Hollywood supporters would throw in the trash,” Abbott spokeswoman Amelia Chasse said in a statement.