Today, on her first full day as a candidate for governor, State Senator Wendy Davis, will make her case to business leaders at the Fort Worth Rotary Club. Advisers say it’s important for the Democratic contender to combat the “liberal” label opponents want to pin on her.
Defining her values was part of what 50-year old Wendy Davis tried to do Thursday as she announced her long- expected candidacy from a stage in Haltom City, where she received her high school diploma 32 years ago.
Davis used the setting to retell her story of being a struggling single mother of 19, who eventually graduated from Harvard Law School, and to highlight education as a key election issue.
“The Texas I came up with made it possible for me to go to school,” she told some 2,000 supporters who frequently chanted her name and cheered.
“I worry the journey I made is a lot steeper for young people in Texas today,” she said. “College is more expensive. The choices for working families are fewer. And far too many young people yearning to continue their own educational journeys are turned down for grants and loans because state leaders have turned a deaf ear to their needs and blocked their path.”
Then Davis delivered what may become the tag line for her campaign.
“Texas has always been a promise. The promise that where you start has nothing to do with how far you can go,” she said.
Davis talked about how she filibustered a budget bill two years ago that cut deeply into school funding. But she never mentioned the June filibuster that brought her national fame, the 11- hour battle that temporarily derailed a bill banning most abortions.
Opponents have already begun attacking Davis’ pro-choice position.
Outside the auditorium several dozen anti-abortion activists who support Republican opponent Greg Abbott waved signs reading “No to Wendy” and “No to Murder.”
Pam Ayers of Burleson was among them.
“She had a discussion of how much she is for abortion,” Ayers said. I’m here to show my support for pro-life and Greg Abbott.”
But Mary Beth Rogers of Dallas doesn’t think the abortion issue is a problem for Davis.
“I think the personal choice for women is important to women all over this state, “said Rogers who served as chief of staff for Ann Richards, the last Democrat and woman to occupy the Texas governor’s office.
Rogers says she sees similarities between Davis’ uphill fight and what Richards faced in 1990 in her race against Republican Clayton Williams.
“When she started out she was 27 points behind. She was an underdog, people did not think she had a shot at winning,” Rogers recalled.
She believes a shift in voting patterns is why Davis could beat the odds this time.
“You are seeing a change in suburban women they are turning away from right-wing tea party rhetoric in droves so there is great potential for Wendy there,” said Rogers.
But potential only counts if you can turn it into votes. Doing that is the task now facing Wendy Davis.