At least according to Robert Miller.
Credible sources tell me that Sen. Wendy Davis will run for Governor in 2014 and not seek reelection to Texas Senate District 10. It will set up a high stakes match-up with Attorney General Greg Abbott in the November 4, 2014, general election.
Sen. Davis believes that she faces a tough race regardless of whether she seeks reelection to the Senate or runs for Governor. In 2010, Gov. Rick Perry received 52.7% of the vote in SD 10 compared to 44.6% for Mayor Bill White. In 2012, Gov. Romney defeated President Obama in SD 10 53.3% to 45.4%.
Sen. Davis has been elected twice in SD 10, so it clearly is a winnable race — but tough. Sen. Davis is now a national figure for Texas Democrats, and a senate reelection run would draw in national money both for and against her. If she is going to have a tough nationalized race, she would prefer it be for Governor.
The last Democrat to be elected Texas Governor was Ann Richards in 1990. Since then, the Democratic nominee has received the following percentage of the vote: 1994 – Richards 45.7%; 1998 – Mauro 31.2%; 2002 – Sanchez 40%; 2006 – Bell 29.8%; 2010 – White 42.3%. Public Policy Polling released a poll July 2, 2013, showing General Abbott leading Sen. Davis 48% to 40%, and the same poll had Gov. Perry leading Sen. Davis 53% to 39%. Texas is still a deeply red state, and running for Governor as a Democrat in Texas is a steep uphill climb.
Nevertheless, there are upsides for Sen. Davis. The stars could align, however improbably, and she could conceivably win. Alternatively, assuming she runs a credible race, a cabinet or subcabinet position would probably be available to her under President Obama or in a future Clinton administration. Lastly, a strong showing in 2014 would position her as the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for Governor or U.S. Senator in 2018, assuming the Democrats have a better shot with each passing election cycle.
However, the real winner of Sen. Davis’ decision to run for Governor are Texas Democrats. Without her, they have no credible statewide candidate in 2014. With her, they will likely find other credible Democrats willing to step out and run statewide. She will also provide a race that Battleground Texas, the Obama campaign’s effort to turn Texas blue, can organize around. Finally, she will likely boost Democratic turnout in urban counties such as Dallas and Harris helping down ballot Democrats running for county and judicial offices.
If true, you can save yourself a stamp. I don’t know who Robert has been talking to and obviously I don’t know if he’s heard correct information or not, but I basically agree with his reasoning here. I’ve said before that Sen. Davis’ higher profile is an asset for a statewide run, but not necessarily one for a re-election effort. The possibility of a position within the Obama and/or Clinton administrations in the event she falls short addresses one of the concerns I’d had about her running now, which is that there isn’t a statewide office (save for Railroad Commissioner) on the ballot in 2016, so Davis would need something to keep her politically engaged and visible at least to Democratic activists until 2018. It’s one thing to run and lose, and another thing entirely for her to take a gig after running and losing that makes her less likely to run again and/or less viable as a candidate for the next opportunity.
Everyone has their own take on what Sen. Davis will need to win this race. I’ll just reiterate my position that the first step is dealing with the fact that Democratic turnout in off-year elections has been basically flat since 2002. That’s good news in the sense that there’s tons of potential for growth, but obviously that represents a lot of work to be done, and not much time in which to do it. Barring a 2006 level of Republican turnout or an unprecedented Democratic wave, Davis is going to have to draw some votes away from Greg Abbott in order to win. The good news there, as Michael Li has pointed out, is that early poll results show Davis doing better among Anglo voters than Bill White did in 2010, which suggests that the race may be closer than it first looks. I’m not going to put too much stock in that right now – there will be plenty more polls if indeed Davis runs – but it is something to keep in mind. When more polls do come out, remember that Republican turnout has been a moving target over the past three elections, and Democratic turnout is likely to be higher than in years past. That’s going to make pollsters’ assumptions about the composite of the electorate a big factor in reading poll results. Nobody knows right now what the makeup of 2014 voters will be – we’ll all be guessing.
Miller mentions that with Davis’ entry, other credible Dems will likely take a shot at the other offices as well; TDP Chair Gilberto Hinojosa has alluded to such in the past as well. I’m hopeful that may include folks like Sen. Leticia Van de Putte and Sen. Rodney Ellis, neither of whom would have to give up their seats in 2014, for Lt. Gov. and Attorney General, respectively. I don’t know who else may be out there, but as with John Cook popping up to run for Land Commissioner, I’m sure there are folks many of us hadn’t been thinking about out there.
Davis has said she’ll make her official announcement in the next two weeks, so we’ll know soon enough if he’s got the scoop or not. In the meantime, I’ll repeat my suggestion that we recruit Fort Worth City Council member Joel Burns, who succeeded Davis on that body, to run to succeed her here as well. Texas Politics and Texpatriate have more.