Wendy Davis Faces Uphill Battle If She Runs For Texas Governor

Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis, who famously filibustered a state abortion bill, spoke at the National Press Club on Monday about politics and her plans.

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It's not often that a state senator draws the attention of the national news media, but Texas Democrat Wendy Davis did today when she addressed a packed house at the National Press Club here in Washington. Davis, you may remember, led an 11-hour filibuster earlier this summer against a bill in the Texas legislature that restricted access to abortions. NPR's Brian Naylor explains how that act of defiance has led to speculation about her political future.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: Wendy Davis spoke for some 25 minutes at the Press Club, telling of her improbable rise from single mother at age 19 living in a trailer to Harvard Law and elective office, to one of the Democrats' best hopes to end their long drought in statewide office in Texas. But what reporters and others really wanted to know is if Davis plans to run for governor next year. Incumbent Rick Perry's term is expiring. Davis says she's still thinking about it.

WENDY DAVIS: Well, a lot of people are asking me that question lately, as you can imagine. And I'm working very hard to decide what my next steps will be. I do think that in Texas, people feel like we need a change from the very fractured, very partisan leadership that we're seeing in our state government right now.

NAYLOR: Davis did make clear that she's not really interested in any other office, such as a bid for lieutenant governor or U.S. Senate.

DAVIS: Well, I can say with absolute certainty that I will run for one of two offices, either my state senate seat or the governor.

NAYLOR: Davis shot to national attention with her June filibuster of a bill Perry backed that would prohibit doctors in Texas from performing abortions after 20 weeks. Her action at the close of a special session of the legislature stopped the bill temporarily, but Perry then called another session in which the measure was approved.

Davis criticized Perry, although not by name in her speech today.

DAVIS: They brag about our low unemployment, while at the same time slashing and dramatically underfunding public education. They travel to states as far away as California and New York trying to lure business to Texas, while at the same time ignoring the needs in our community college and our higher education system.

NAYLOR: This is Davis' second trip to Washington in as many months. In July, she held a closed-door fundraiser here attended by several Democratic members of Congress. Martin Frost, a former Democratic congressman from Texas, calls Davis inspirational and says he hopes she does run for governor.

MARTIN FROST: Remember, there's no incumbent. It's an open seat. I think that one of the problems in the past has been the ability to raise enough money to make a credible statewide race. I believe she clearly could do that. I think she's one of the most exciting political figures to come along in Texas in a long time.

NAYLOR: Still, Davis would likely face an uphill battle should she decide to run. Texas remains the reddest of red states. No Democrat has held the governor's office since Ann Richards was defeated by George W. Bush in 1994. And her reelection to the state senate from a Republican-leaning district would not be a sure thing, either.

Still, that doesn't stop the speculation about Davis' political future. One questioner at the Press Club asked if Davis would consider being Hillary Clinton's running mate in 2016. Davis responded, we'll have to find out if Hillary is running for president first. Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington.

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