"Remake this state in your image”: Wendy Davis loses governor's race, but Texas progressives fight on

Republican Greg Abbott won the governor's race, but the momentum behind Davis' candidacy isn't going anywhere

By Katie McDonough

Published November 5, 2014 4:07AM (EST)

Wendy Davis                 (Lm Otero)
Wendy Davis (Lm Otero)

The Associated Press called the Texas governor's race for Greg Abbott while the polls were still open, but the Texans I follow on Twitter, the same women and men who have been organizing relentlessly for the last 18 months to support Wendy Davis, urged voters to stay in line anyway. It was their constitutional right, after all. And their votes still mattered.

I'm a lifelong New Yorker so I won't pretend to know a thing about being a Texan, but from an outsider's perspective, this prompt to forge ahead despite the bad news of the day seemed pretty emblematic of the progressive coalition building and longterm agenda setting that defined that election. There was nothing symbolic or fatalistic about Davis' campaign for governor -- she ran to win and her supporters organized for the same. But there was also always a strong dose of the long game built into the narrative. It was always about more than this one election or this one candidate, and it very much still is.

So I won't claim to feel anything but awful about Abbott's actual victory -- his platform is terrible and the consequences of his leadership will take a profound toll on healthcare, voting rights, poverty, education and reproductive autonomy in the state. And in the coming days, there will be more written about voter turnout and voter suppression, dissections about what messaging worked for the Davis campaign and what didn't. Over at Vox, Andrew Prokop has already noted that the margins will likely shape how the nation views the campaign and the future of a possible blue or purple Texas.

But in the immediate aftermath of the election results, I'm still stuck on the work that happened in the state and what Davis did to move the needle -- in Texas and nationally -- on the issues of reproductive freedom and women's political leadership. "Tonight I know that you are disappointed,” Davis said after the results came in. “And being disappointed is OK. But being discouraged is not, because what we have before us is an opportunity to remake this state in your image.”

The filibustering Wendy Davis may still be frozen in the nation's mind, but progressives in the state have been consistently building on that moment for nearly two years now. Davis's campaign for governor ended tonight, but the sea of orange that overwhelmed the Capitol during her historic filibuster will still be working to remake the state in their own image.


Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

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Abortion Abortion Rights Greg Abbott Midterms Texas Wendy Davis