Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis officially announced her campaign for governor Thursday night, putting an end to months of intense speculation about the filibustering Democrat's political ambitions.
And while it was Davis' June fight against her state's sweeping antiabortion law that turned her into a national icon, she chose to emphasize her record on education and job creation in the speech kicking off her campaign.
"We’re here because we want every child, no matter where they start in Texas, to receive a world-class education -- an education that can take them anywhere they want to go, so that success and opportunity is within reach of every single Texan and no one in this great state is ever forced to dream smaller instead of bigger," Davis said.
Citing her fight against GOP-backed cuts to education funding in 2011, Davis continued, "Though the cuts weren’t immediately restored, those voices grew and they grew until they could no longer be ignored and we were able to undo over $3 billion of that damage."
Davis' emphasis on education comes as little surprise; her national profile rose during the Texas Legislature's prolonged battle over abortion rights in the state, but Davis' struggle to pursue higher education as a young, single mother was widely reported and became a prominent piece of her public image. After having her first child at 19, Davis attended a community college and a local university as a single mother before going on to earn her law degree from Harvard.
While Davis' name recognition and national popularity has bolstered the momentum behind her candidacy, she may face an uphill battle in the historically red state, as Sean Sullivan at the Washington Post notes:
While party strategists are optimistic about shifting demographics that could boost Democratic hopes in Texas in the coming years, the state hasn't elected a Democratic governor since 1990. And the last time a Democrat was elected statewide was 1994...
A key question for Davis is whether she can raise enough money to compete in a state with several expensive media markets. Keeping pace with [Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg] Abbott will be no small feat. While Davis flexed some fundraising muscle this summer, pulling in $900,000 in June, by the time Abbott announced his campaign in July, he had already amassed a war chest of about $20 million.
A recent poll conducted for the Texas Lyceum, a nonpartisan, nonprofit group, showed Abbott leading Davis 29 percent to 21 percent. Half of the voters polled said they “don’t know” who they will support.