Nothing could sit Wendy Davis down during an 11-hour filibuster on the Texas Senate floor Tuesday night. But the state’s Republican lean may put a ceiling on her immediate political future — at least in 2014.
There is both a Senate and gubernatorial race in Texas next year, but a Democrat hasn’t been elected to either office since 1990. Still, the state’s booming population and demographic shifts have enticed the party to launch preparations for a potentially competitive statewide race. The only question is how soon an opportunity will come.
“To win statewide in Texas, it’s beyond having a good candidate,” said Lone Star Project director Matt Angle, a Davis ally. “You don’t necessarily want to encourage somebody to run unless you are sure that the infrastructure and the financial support are there for them.”
On Tuesday night, Davis' filibuster of a bill that would have tightened restrictions on abortion caused a national storm on Twitter and invited the support of Democratic activists and Hollywood stars. Still, Robert Jones, a veteran Texas Democratic strategist who helped recruit the state senator to run in 2008, said Davis won't be making any hasty decisions on her political future.
"A lot of people are going to be excited and be talking to her about running," Jones said. "Wendy is very smart and will make data-driven decisions in evaluating her options. She has not made any decision yet about what she’s going to do, but will do it based on numbers and data. It will be up to her to determine when will be the right time if there is an opportunity."
A House run would provide its own unique issues, with Davis' Fort Worth base offering no good options. She would likely either run in Democratic Rep. Marc Veasey's 33rd District or the heavily Republican 12th District, held by GOP Rep. Kay Granger.
To run for Senate, Davis would have to challenge two-term GOP Sen. John Cornyn, a strong fundraiser and former chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Texas GOP Chairman Steve Munisteri said that with Republicans generally doing better among Hispanic voters in Texas than the rest of the country, and with the Democrats' shallow bench, it's hard to see how anything will be different next year.
"I fail to see how Wendy Davis doing a filibuster is going to change anything," Munisteri said, noting that Davis' seat will be a top target next year. "I hope she gives it up, because then we will pick up the state Senate seat and she will lose statewide."
Her political aspirations aside, in the short term Davis has already emerged as a fundraising tool for national Democrats. The Democratic Governors Association sought donations from supporters to “defeat Republican governors like Texas’ Rick Perry.” Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, D-Hawaii, called Davis "an inspiration" and asked for donations so she could fight for women’s rights in the Senate.
Party operatives are excited about the possibility of having Davis on a ticket soon, though none of the national party's House, Senate or gubernatorial campaign committees responded to a request for comment about whether they had reached out to her about running. EMILY's List spoke with her about running for office long before she gained national fame Tuesday night, according to a source.
Davis' national profile would give her a leg up on the average candidate new to the big stage.
“I am sure that national Dems are salivating at the chance to have her run for higher office,” Democratic pollster John Anzalone said Wednesday morning. “Hell, I don’t even know what area of Texas she represents or what congressional district she is in. She would be a fundraiser’s dream.”