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Wendy Davis profile

The Trib profiles State Sen. Wendy Davis. It’s a good read.

The filibuster was a defining moment for Davis, a twice-divorced single mother who had her first daughter as a teenager, was the first in her family to go to college, and worked her way from junior college and a Tarrant County trailer park to Harvard law school and the Fort Worth City Council. But what effect, if any, the moment will have on school funding or Davis’ political future remains unclear.

Some suggest it was a final hurrah for a Democrat angry over her party’s increasing ineffectiveness in a Legislature run by Republicans — and the recent GOP-led redistricting that severely threatens her reelection. They say if a special session moves the ball on school funding at all, it will be minimal, and instead opens the door for Perry’s other priorities, including the “sanctuary cities” immigration measure Senate Democrats successfully fended off during the regular session. And even if nothing changes with the school finance plan, they argue, at least parents, teachers and school districts will have the opportunity to challenge it.

“There’s a false bravado there — and no end game,” said Bill Hammond, a former Republican legislator and president of the Texas Association of Business. “Once the people realize what she has wrought, they’ll see the folly in her efforts.”

But others say it’s a watershed moment for a rising political star, who gave new life to disheartened Democrats with her efforts to derail a fly-by-night school finance plan, and lit up the Twittersphere with speculation about a Wendy Davis run for “U.S. Senate/Governor/President/Queen of the Universe/Whatever She Wants.” They argue laying the blame for a special session on Davis is ridiculous, because Perry already intended to call one for windstorm insurance and congressional redistricting.

After reviewing the timeline, I am convinced that a special session for redistricting was always going to happen. The only difference is that now school finance issues are also on the agenda. Anyone who blames Davis for this is not seeing what’s right in front of their face.

She confesses to being blindsided by the attention. In the rough and tumble world of social media, she’s been heralded as a hero and trashed as a traitor. Media outlets from around the state have descended on her office. But the always-polished Davis is handling it like a pro — one who may have higher political aspirations. After Perry effectively called her a “show horse” in a Monday press conference, Davis took him on, accusing him of using partisan tactics to help further “his presidential desires.” On Tuesday, after another Perry press conference, Davis ended up in the center of a media gaggle just feet from his office door. Though she said her first priority is winning a second term in the Senate, Davis wouldn’t rule out seeking other posts inside the state Capitol.

“In terms of increasing her profile, she has absolutely succeeded on that front,” said Bill Miller, an Austin-based lobbyist who’s worked with candidates across the political spectrum. “But that also puts a big target on her as well.”

Davis says she is not concerned. “I’ve never worried about payback,” she said. “People are hungry for leadership that’s not afraid of political consequence.” And unlike most lawmakers, who operate in a system of caucuses, coalitions and allegiances, Davis often behaves as if she’s got nothing to lose.

Maybe it’s because she doesn’t. This session, Republicans redrew her Senate district in a way that ensures a tough — perhaps futile — campaign, and a likely legal battle over the new map. If the Texas Senate doesn’t work out, Davis says she’ll go back to practicing public and regulatory law, and with a good story.

I wish more politicians had that attitude. The world would be a very different place if they did. I don’t know what the political result of Davis’ actions will be. The Republicans will pass what they would have passed anyway on school finance, this time with some more attention on them, and they may pass some things that they weren’t able to the first time around, like sanctuary cities. The question is whether Democrats get a spark from this, and can use it to win elections in the future. Everyone acknowledges that the Ardmore walkout of 2003 was a galvanizing event for Democrats. The fact that the DeLay re-redistricting eventually passed anyway didn’t change that. We won’t know what the effect of the Davis filibuster will be until next November at the earliest.

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One Comment

  1. blank says:

    I do wonder whether this would have occurred if Seliger had drawn a Republican leaning swing district for her. Nonetheless, we’ll never know, and I think the filibuster was her best move given the situation.