The last time Democrats won statewide office in Texas, Bill Clinton was in the White House, John Paul II headed the Vatican and Twitter was the chirping noise birds made. Breaking that losing streak, now almost 20 years in the making, won’t be easy.
But newly famous state Sen. Wendy Davis, who is sounding more and more like a Democratic candidate for Texas governor, is giving party leaders hope of revival next year in the only reliably Republican state where minorities are in the majority. Davis is expected to reveal her future political plans by Labor Day. “On a scale of one to ten, the enthusiasm level is about a 42,” said Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa. “People are just really excited about her candidacy to a point I’ve never seen before. I’ve been involved in this business for 30 years, and I’ve never seen Democrats so passionate about a candidate that has not announced for governor or any other position.” In remarks at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Monday, Davis said she’d either run for governor or try to hold on to her hard-fought state Senate seat, but ruled out running for the U.S. Senate, lieutenant governor or any other statewide office. Some allies want her to run for re-election in the hopes that Democrats will continue to have a voice, albeit muted, in the upper chamber. Others, like Hinojosa, say a Davis gubernatorial bid would help revitalize the bedgraggled party and help candidates in competitive legislative and congressional races by boosting turnout. Davis became an instant celebrity — and a social media phenomenon — after waging a filibuster over a restrictive abortion bill in late June. She pulled in nearly $1 million in campaign contributions at the end of the first special session, thanks in large part to the filibuster, and saw her followers on Twitter rise from 1,200 beforehand to more than 140,000 today.