Davis Announcement Event at 3pm Today in Haltom City;
CNN’s Peter Hamby with 8 Hopeful Signs for Davis;
Senate Finance Chair Williams to Resign, Scramble Begins
Good morning from Austin.
Here’s the brief:
WENDY SET TO ANNOUNCE AT 3PM
AAS’ Jonathan Tilove, already on the ground in Haltom City, reports in a story not behind the AAS paywall:
Davis will start out as a decided underdog. No Democrat has been elected to any statewide office in the 20 years subsequent to 1994, and the Texas Lyceum Poll released Wednesday showed her trailing Attorney General Greg Abbott, the likely Republican nominee, by the usual margin for a Democrat.But no Texas Democrat since Richards has generated as much excitement – in Texas and beyond – as Davis, whose potential future political ambitions were hurried along by the enormous response she drew when she filibustered a bill to place new restrictions on abortion and requirements for abortion facilities at the end of the Legislature’s first special session. Her filibuster in late June lasted long enough to require another special session to enact it.A clamor arose among Democrats beseeching Davis to seize the moment and run for governor, even though it would mean that she would not be able to run again for her hard-won Tarrant County Senate district, which, her supporters like to point out, is a demographic microcosm of the state.
Davis’s candidacy comes months after the launch by alumni of Obama’s presidential campaign of Battleground Texas, an effort to build the grassroots volunteer network and political infrastructure necessary to turn Texas first politically purple and then blue. Battleground Texas has organized more than 40 local watch parties across the state where Davis supporters can gather at 4 today to watch her announcement.
The Austin watch party, featuring Reps. Donna Howard and Elliot Naisthat, will be at Scholz Garten at 1607 San Jacinto Blvd. downtown. There will also be a party at McCombs Ballroom at Southwestern University’s Red and Charline McCombs Campus Center in Georgetown and at Brewster’s Pizza at 9595 RM 12 in Wimberley.
Davis was originally expected to announce her plans just after Labor Day, but those plans were put off because of the death of her father, Jerry Russell, on Sept. 5, following complications from surgery.
CNN’S PETER HAMBY ON 8 ‘GLIMMERS OF HOPE’ FOR WENDY
CNN’s Peter Hamby reports in a long piece that I nonetheless include in full below:
Wendy Davis is expected to go public Thursday with some news that everyone in politics already knows: She’s running for governor of Texas.
The state senator from Fort Worth electrified Democrats in June by slipping on a pair of pink Mizunos and a back brace to stage a dramatic 11-hour filibuster of a Republican bill that drastically scaled back abortion rights in the state. Never mind that the bill eventually passed in a special legislative session: Democrats around the country were in full swoon mode.
Davis, an attractive single mom who worked her way up from a trailer park to make it through Harvard Law School, danced around the question of running for governor all summer but is now ready to make it official. For the beleaguered Democrats of Texas, she represents the best shot at capturing the governor’s mansion since George W. Bush ousted Ann Richards in 1994.
But the excitement swirling around her candidacy will quickly give way to a grim reality: Texas is still deep red and socially conservative, dangerous turf for a Democrat best known for standing up for abortion rights. In 2012, Mitt Romney drubbed President Barack Obama by 16 points there.
Smart political types in Washington and Austin have already come to the same conclusion: Davis can’t win. They’re probably right. Time and again, ambitious Democrats have been tempted by the forbidden fruit of Texas politics — a seemingly favorable demographic upheaval, driven by thriving urban centers and a booming Hispanic population — only to come up woefully short.
The task becomes even more challenging in a mid-term year, when Democratic turnout tends to fall off and the white share of the vote spikes, favoring Republicans.
The likely GOP nominee, state Attorney General Greg Abbott, has a substantial war chest, powerful allies and a compelling life story. He became a paraplegic in 1984 when a tree fell on him after a storm, crushing his spine.
But in the spirit of contrarianism, here are eight glimmers of hope for Davis as she tries to pull off what would undoubtedly be one of the biggest upsets of the 2014 cycle.
1. She knows how to win
Winning a state Senate campaign is a far cry from winning a statewide election, especially for a polarizing Democrat in GOP-leaning Texas, but Davis survived two brutal campaigns in a Forth Worth-area district that, in many ways, is a microcosm of the state.
The area’s Hispanic population surged over the past decade, and nonwhite voters now make up a majority of Davis’s district, particularly in Forth Worth’s heavily Hispanic north side.
In 2008, when she first ran for the seat, and in her tough 2012 re-election fight, Davis outworked her opponents in Tarrant County and assembled a coalition of Hispanics, African-Americans, women voters and moderate Republicans to win. Both races were squeakers: She won by less than three points each time.
Davis isn’t afraid to throw a punch, either.
In 2008, her campaign nuked the Republican incumbent, Kim Brimer, with negative television ads portraying him as a crooked Austin insider (her supporters snarkily called him “Kim Shady”).
Four years later, Gov. Rick Perry and an armada of Republicans pumped time and energy into the race to unseat Davis, but she still beat back her GOP challenger — even in a district that Obama lost badly.
In fact, going back to her days on the Forth Worth City Council, Davis has never lost a race. Abbott, who served on the Texas Supreme Court before becoming the state’s attorney general in 2002, has not faced a credible opponent, Republican or Democrat, in years.
“I’m very optimistic about Wendy’s for upsetting Greg Abbott,” said Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro, another bright light on Texas’s fresh-faced roster of Democrats. “She is a very talented candidate and incredibly hard working. Greg Abbott represents what has become a very extreme wing of the Republican Party. And more independent and moderate Republicans in Texas have had enough of tea party Republicans.”
2. Greg who?
In his three re-election bids, Rick Perry laid waste to a trio of Democratic challengers — Tony Sanchez, Chris Bell and Bill White — who dared to run statewide with a scarlet D next to their name. Perry’s political talents aside, he benefited from the power of incumbency and name recognition. Despite having more than $20 million in the bank, Abbott lacks Perry’s star power.
According to a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll released in June, more than half of voters had no opinion of Abbott, including 46% of Republicans.
A Texas Lyceum poll out this week showed Abbott leading Davis 29% to 21%, but showed a majority of voters had no preference in the race, and revealed that 45% of Republicans and almost 80% of independents didn’t know enough about Abbott.
Despite her buzz in political circles, Davis is similarly unknown to most voters. But unlike the Democratic gubernatorial candidates who preceded her, she’s getting started on a roughly even playing field and has an opportunity to define her opponent early.
3. Campaigns matter
Few things seem to send a thrill up the leg of polling wizards than writing off candidates before a race has even begun.
“Wendy Davis Won’t Win,” blared the headline of a recent New Republic piece by Nate Cohn, the magazine’s resident numbers-cruncher.
Cohn’s analysis was mostly accurate, but these high-and-mighty dismissals ignore one immutable fact of politics: Campaigns and candidates matter.
Just ask Missouri’s Claire McCaskill and Todd Akin.
Texas offers a wonderful example. The state’s last Democratic governor, Ann Richards, began her campaign in 1990 in a 27-point hole against a well-funded Republican named Clayton Williams.
But “Claytie” did himself in on the campaign trail with a series of damaging gaffes — he once refused to shake hands with Richards at a candidate’s forum, and he made a rape joke that haunted him throughout the campaign. Meanwhile, Richards leveraged her natural charisma and appeal to suburban women to eke out a three-point win that November.
4. The Texas Hispanic boom
According to the 2010 census, the Hispanic population in Texas ballooned by almost 3 million during the previous decade, and it’s safe to assume that number has only expanded since then. Much as it does nationally, this demographic trend in Texas works unmistakably in the favor of the Democrats, who have capitalized on the abrasive anti-immigrant rhetoric emanating from conservative pockets of the Republican Party.
In the 2010 governor’s race, for example, Democrat Bill White won Hispanic voters, who made up about 17% of the vote that year, by a nearly 2-1 margin (the flip side of the math here is that White’s opponent, Perry, swamped him overall by racking up a huge margins among “Anglos,” as they say in Texas).
But Davis can’t take Hispanic voters for granted, argued Texas GOP Chairman Steve Munisteri, who said he has five full-time staffers assigned to outreach efforts in Spanish-speaking communities. Munisteri said Texas Republicans understand the pressing need to expand the party’s appeal beyond white voters, noting that the Texas GOP endorsed a guest-worker program into their 2012 party platform, even as conservative activists opposed the idea.
“It’s not just policy and whether there is action or inaction,” he said. “It’s also whether the Republican Party is viewed as welcoming to Hispanic citizens or hostile to Hispanic citizens. We have to come across as sincere that we really want to include Hispanics in the party.”
5. The Obama SWAT team
After re-electing the president last year, a handful of field marshals from the Obama campaign turned their eyes to Texas, with its exploding and under-registered Hispanic population, in hopes of growing the electorate and one day moving the state’s cache of 38 electoral votes into the Democratic column and forever road-blocking Republican hopes of capturing the White House. They dubbed their new group “Battleground Texas.”
The group’s organizers have been clear-eyed and honest with reporters about the challenging and long-term nature of the project. Few expect Battleground Texas organizers to register enough Hispanic, African-American and other first-time voters to overcome entrenched GOP advantages in such a narrow time frame.
Even so, Davis will have on her side the brains and muscle behind the most sophisticated voter turnout operation in American political history. That’s an unequivocal asset.
Critics have questioned how effective Battleground Texas can be without Obama, a uniquely talented and charismatic figure, at the top of the ticket rallying voters. But this is Texas, where Obama is about as popular as the Oklahoma Sooners.
Pragmatic Democrats are just fine keeping a safe distance from the president, even though Abbott and his team will do their best to make sure that doesn’t happen.
6. A potential spoiler
Debra Medina, a Wharton businesswoman and conservative activist, captured nearly 20% of the vote in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary by making a strong play for the nascent tea party movement.
She’s currently raising money for a possible 2014 comptroller campaign, but also leaving the door open to an independent run for governor next year, in part because of her not-so-subtle disdain for a long line of establishment-backed GOP figures in her state — Perry and Abbott chief among them.
“You look at our ticket, and it’s all rich white guys,” Medina said in an interview. “There are few women and liberty-leaning candidates on the ballot. If we go through the nomination process and end up with are whole bunch of Mitt Romneys on the ticket next November, people aren’t going to get excited about it.”
Medina said she plans to make a decision about an independent bid for governor by early December, after she decides whether or not to file as a candidate for comptroller. If she does run for the top office, Medina’s support would almost certainly draw from the tea party activist wing of the Republican coalition. That would be bad news for Abbott.
7. Suburban women
Davis is most famous for her filibuster of Senate Bill 5, which curtailed access to abortion in Texas after it passed this summer in a special legislative session.
The fight made her an archvillain in the eyes of many conservatives and anti-abortion activists, but it transformed her into a folk hero among left-leaning women’s groups, who believe Davis can use the issues of women’s health care to drive a wedge between Republicans and female voters.
She has an opening, according to Jim Henson, the director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas, and Joshua Blank, the project’s pollster.
As the pair recently wrote in the Texas Tribune, suburban women have been trending away from the GOP in recent years. In late 2010, a University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll found that 50% of suburban women identified as Republicans. Two years later, 43% called themselves Republicans. And in their most recent survey, in June of this year, the number had dropped to 38%. Over the same three-year span, the number of suburban women calling themselves Democrats jumped from 37% for 46%.
In other words, women in Texas are increasingly kosher with voting for the blue team. Davis will need their help to break the Republican chokehold on white voters.
8. Outside money
The filibuster that went viral online in June and made Davis an instant Democratic celebrity had the added benefit of growing her list of supporters — an e-mail network that’s about to double as a national donor base.
But Davis will also have reinforcements.
While Battleground Texas works the ground game, the women’s groups who worked hard to recruit Davis into the race — Planned Parenthood, EMILY’s List and Texas-based Annie’s List — are expected to provide air cover, pumping money into Texas this year and next to fund radio, television and mail ads.
Even if Davis comes up short, the opportunity to help inch Texas toward Democratic hands in the makes it an appealing target for donors and outside groups, said one well-connected Austin Democrat who is close to the soon-to-be-launched campaign.
“There will be a confluence of excited and effective organizations that could have important roles to play inside and out of the campaign structure,” said the Democrat, who declined to be named because the campaign was not yet official.
“Annie’s List, the Texas Democratic Party, labor unions are all gearing up and appear to be working together effectively. And individual/institutional donors from across the nation saw Wendy’s filibuster and have made it clear they are interested. After all, there is a long-play beyond just 2014 that is very compelling.
“The more you invest in the state, the more you accelerate demographic change in voter turnout and the quicker you put Texas in play in the electoral college map and change the politics of the nation.”
MY WENDY PREDICTION
It’s easy to make predictions. Hard to keep track of who predicted what. And still harder to admit you made a wrong one.
I predicted quite publicly that Wendy would not run for Governor. At 3pm it will be abundantly clear thatI was wrong.
I remain convinced that she cannot win, and for that reason I thought she would pass. She obviously thinks she can win. Only one of us will be right.
While I (personally) strongly disagree with many of her policy positions, today, as she announces her run, we can all appreciate the sacrifice she (and all statewide candidates) will make to put themselves in the arena in public service. For that, these candidates all deserve our respect.
TOMMY WILLIAMS SET TO RESIGN, EXPECTED TO TAKE VP JOB AT A&M; SPECIAL ELECTION WILL BE REQUIRED; NEW FINANCE CHAIR WILL BE APPOINTED
A rare three-byline TT story with a bombshell that hit last night: Senate Finance Chairman Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands) will resign from the State Senate and is expected to take a job at VP of Government Affairs at Texas A&M.
State Sen. Williams had a four year term and is one of the most powerful legislators in Texas, so his resignation is a shock. Uncertainty about whom the next Lt Gov. will be may have played a role in this.
Two questions matter now:
1) Who will be appointed to chair Finance?
Members of the Finance committee, in order of seniority (believe this is right) are:
Duncan – 1997
Estes – 2001
Deuell – 2003
Nelson – 2003
Eltife – 2004
Seliger – 2004
Hegar – 2007
Patrick – 2007
Huffman – 2008
My view: I’d guess it’s Duncan (seniority) or Nelson (most appropriate conservative choice, as Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R-TX) is facing a stiff primary).
2) Who will run for State Sen. Williams’ seat?
Among those mentioned: Texas Agriculture Commissioner candidate and State Rep. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe), State Rep. Steve Toth (The Woodlands), Ben Streusand. A couple others have also been mentioned.
– AAS’ Ralph Haurwitz reports (behind paywall) that legal costs for UT in the affirmative action case have reached $1 million.
2013 / 2014 / 2016:
– In a new national Quinnipiac poll, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) had a 16% favorable rating, a 25% unfavorable rating and 58% didn’t know enough about him to have an opinion.
– TT / KUT’s Ben Philpott reports on the race to replace State Rep. Mark Strama (D-Austin) in this year’s special election.
– TT’s Jim Malewitz reports that the Railroad Commission candidates are pledging to serve out the full term, if elected.
– State Rep. Van Taylor (R-Plano), who is running for State Senate District 8, released his first TV ad.
Other stories of interest:
– Conservative activist and Americans For Tax Reform president took a shot at U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in an interview with The Washington Post.
– A-Rod says he was ‘duped’ into using steroids.
– Michael Jordan schooled OJ Mayo in 2006.
– Houston Rocket Dwight Howard says he may shoot free throws with his eyes closed. Can’t hurt.
– An oddsmaker predicted the line if the undefeated Denver Broncos played against undefeated Alabama.
– The military academies will play football this weekend.
– ESPN the Magazine rips Robert Griffin III for being all marketing.
– Hockey coaches…brawling.
– In a perhaps related story, Detroit Red Wings great Steve Yzerman calls for an end to fighting in hockey. (Good luck)
BLOGS (from the left)
BLOGS (from the right)