Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis on Sunday deflected pointed questions about her plans to run for Texas governor even while providing a glimpse at the issues that would be at the heart of the campaign.
“I will neither confirm nor deny,” Davis told a packed and friendly audience on the closing day of the Texas Tribune Festival.
Davis, who catapulted to national prominence with her 11-hour filibuster of abortion legislation this summer, has scheduled an announcement for Thursday in Tarrant County at the same coliseum where she received her high school diploma.
“No Texas Democrat since Ann Richards has become so famous, so quickly, in so many places. And that sudden notoriety and fundraising capability has been the basis for calls that she run for governor and also the impetus for some pretty horrific name-calling,” said Evan Smith, CEO of the Texas Tribune, as he introduced Davis for the one-hour interview.
Labeled “Abortion Barbie” by conservatives, Davis said she would be able to withstand whatever Republicans would throw at her during a statewide campaign.
In the wake of her filibuster, Davis said she has been struck by the impassioned response from women.
“Somehow that day tapped into what was a feeling for many young women that they weren’t being heard,” Davis said.
And the same can be said about middle-class, working families who don’t feel the state’s Republican leaders have been hearing them on issues such as quality schools, college affordability and health care, she added.
Davis bemoaned the partisan acrimony that “makes for great political theater” but fails to solve problems. She also hit a centrist tone in complimenting the efforts of Republican state Rep. John Zerwas of Simonton to find a way to expand access to health care given the GOP’s opposition to Obamacare.
“Texas has to have a unique solution to the Affordable Care Act,” Davis said. “We’ve seen other states be able to accomplish that. For goodness sake, Arizona was able to accomplish it.”
A Texas Democrat last captured statewide office in 1994 and Davis would be considered a longshot against the Republican gubernatorial front runner, Attorney General Greg Abbott, who already has a $25 million campaign war chest.
State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, left open the possibility Sunday that she could make a run for lieutenant governor, adding that she would wait until after Davis’ announcement Thursday.
“It’s a very personal decision and one that I am frankly looking at very, very carefully,” Van de Putte said. “It will be a family decision, but I am looking at it. I want different leadership for the state so badly.”