CORALVILLE, Iowa — Nobody, including Wendy Davis, knows where she’s headed in politics.
During a recent Iowa campaign swing for Hillary Clinton, the 2014 Democratic candidate for governor wouldn’t rule anything out when it came to her political future. But in an interview with The Texas Tribune, she did offer advice to future Texas Democrats running statewide.
“To thine own self be true,” she said, quoting Hamlet, implicitly criticizing her own 2014 campaign.
“I think that voters are hungry for people who are authentic, and to the extent that we can be absolutely authentic to our beliefs serves us well in terms of positioning ourselves as a more successful candidate,” said Davis, who served in the Texas Senate, representing Fort Worth, from 2009 to 2015.
“But also because at the end of the day, win or lose you want to look back at everything you did with pride,” she added.
This month, Davis wrote a mea culpa in Politico for backing the open carry of handguns during her gubernatorial run.
“I couldn’t shake the shameful feeling that I had just done something I had never done before — I had compromised my deeply held principles for the sake of political expediency,” she wrote.
As for “the near future,” Davis is not considering getting back into electoral politics.
“I don’t have my sights set on anything right now,” she said. “That road may lay out before me, it may not. If it does, I would love the opportunity to serve again, if it makes sense.”
“But I know that it’s hard to ask people to spend their time campaigning for you and to invest in you with their hard-earned dollars, and I want to know that I can look people in the eye and tell them we’ve got a good shot at winning in office when I decide to put my foot back on that path.”
Now a private citizen, Davis said she is no longer practicing law. Instead, she said she travels and delivers speeches, often on college campuses, in her aim to organize and motivate young women’s political engagement.
“I’m transitioning into putting together an initiative that will speak directly to young women,” she said. She added it would have a “digital communications tool.”
Davis said that while her 2014 election loss was hard, it was tougher to not be part of the 2015 legislative session.
“[When it] really hit me was when session began in 2015, and I was no longer on the Senate floor,” she said. “That’s when the real grieving for me came, because it was the first time in 15 years that I hadn’t been in public service.”
“It required me — forced me — to rethink, ‘How do you continue to use your voice if you’re not on the legislative floor with a microphone in your hand?’” she added.
She had tough words for the person who succeeded her, state Sen. Konni Burton, R-Colleyville.
Davis calls the change in senators “an extreme swing,” and she called Burton, a Tea Party favorite, “an extremist.”
“To watch the votes she took, even voting against pre-K funding, was really tough for me,” Davis said.
“The vast majority of Texans expect their elected officials to stand for and protect the sanctity of life,” Burton said in a statement responding to Davis’ comments. “Wendy Davis is infamous for her failed attempt to derail a bipartisan bill that banned abortions after five months of pregnancy. This isn’t just out of step with the values of Senate District 10 and Texas, it is the definition of ‘extreme.'”
The Clinton campaign tasked Davis campaign in Iowa last week to help motivate women to turn out for the former secretary of state in the Feb. 1 caucuses. And those who turned out for the appearances were not focused on Davis’ 2014 defeat.
Visitors would ask her to detail her 2013 filibuster of legislation restricting abortions. And while Davis was game to talk about her biography, she seemed consciously aware of her role on this trip and veered back to discussing Clinton.
“We aren’t voting for her, right now, but she has a future,” said Janet Walker, a retired schoolteacher who listened to Davis’ Clinton pitch on Thursday evening in downtown Dubuque.
But after Davis’ 20-point 2014 loss to Greg Abbott, a political future in Texas seems unlikely at best.
Several Iowans asked Davis about her next move. But there is no obvious congressional district from which Davis could run, and a statewide challenge to any Republican is a tall order for her or anyone else in her party.
For now, Davis appears content with an uncertain political future.
“I’m trying every single day to have an impact on the things that I care about and that may one day lead to running for office again,” she said.
“But it might not,” she added. “And I’m okay with that.”
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2015/12/21/wendy-davis-iowa/.