PAUL J. WEBER, Associated Press
HOUSTON (AP) — Reminding worshippers of overcoming long odds in her personal life, Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis on Sunday urged reliable Democratic voters at black churches to turnout in the face of predictions that she needs a miracle to win.
“I know that God gave me that blessing of struggles so that one day I could be a voice for people across this state,” Davis told congregants at Galilee Missionary Baptist Church. “We have so much to do.”
An underdog biography that made Davis her party’s most compelling Texas candidate in decades has become a rallying cry as pundits — and even some Democrats privately — write off her chances with little more than a week before Election Day. Two public polls last week found her trailing Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott by double digits.
Abbott didn’t campaign Sunday. While Davis popped into a half-dozen Sunday morning church services across Houston flanked by other Texas Democrats, Abbott is whipping up conservatives in a final-stretch tour with actor Chuck Norris, who’s previously done the same for Republican Gov. Rick Perry.
From the downtown church of megastar Beyonce to boisterous Baptist sermons on the city fringes, Davis got cheers when noting that Perry’s record 14 years as governor would end in January. She vowed to end years of GOP defiance and bring Medicaid expansion to Texas, fight to raise the minimum wage and prioritize schools.
Her shorthand version of being raised by a mom with a ninth-grade education before herself becoming a poor single mother returning groceries in the checkout line resonated in the pews. Abortion rights — the issue that vaulted Davis to national political stardom last year — wasn’t mentioned until one pastor brought it up.
“You know that I don’t believe in abortion,” said Rev. Carl Davis of New Life Tabernacle Church. “But you know that doesn’t mean I won’t support her in other ways.”
Abbott has suggested that Davis hasn’t given him a closer race, in part, because her attacks have turned off voters. On Sunday, she never said his name.
“I’ve been focused on addressing the everyday challenges of Texas while my opponent’s been focused on addressing me,” Abbott said in an interview last week.
Davis’ chances of pulling an upset Nov. 4 rest in getting an unusually large turnout in a non-presidential election year. Yet the first week of early voting in Harris County — the largest county in Texas and a Democratic stronghold — didn’t bring her campaign good news: in-person turnout is down 23 percent from the last Texas governor’s race in 2010.
Statewide, the total percentage of registered voters who’ve cast early ballots so far in the 15 largest counties is down about 2 percent from four years ago.
Republicans have won every statewide election in Texas since 1994, and Davis said she’s not ready to consider whether her run made a dent for Democrats win or lose.
“If by chance I do not win, I’ll entertain questions like that,” Davis said. “I’m very proud of the campaign that we’ve built. I’m very proud that we’ve pushed forward a message that people are responding to.”