Some things you may not know about Sen. Wendy Davis but will find out about when and if she declares her candidacy for Governor.
Wendy Davis burst into the national political consciousness this summer as a feminist folk hero. She was a titan in pink tennis shoes, a single mother who became a lawyer, stood up to the Republican boys club and, against all odds, temporarily halted enactment of a restrictive abortion bill.
Last week, a different side of the Democratic state senator emerged: the devoted daughter of an ailing father, Jerry Russell, who is well known in Fort Worth theater circles but isn’t mentioned in her compelling campaign biography. Her mother, a sixth grade dropout who made do without child support, is the one who figures prominently in the back story that inspires Davis’ followers.
As it turns out, Davis’ story is more complicated and nuanced than legend would have it. That is not altogether surprising. Getting to know people, even famous ones, takes time. But Davis — whose moribund party badly needs a superstar — rode a filibuster into the political stratosphere, and now her supporters are all but forcing her to run for Texas governor.
If she does, her biography will fall under a more powerful microscope, and what voters are likely to find is the story of an exceptionally ambitious woman who has experienced both poverty and wealth, isn’t nearly as partisan as her detractors might think and was shaped as much by her single electoral defeat as the unbroken string of victories ever since.
Nothing terribly earth-shaking in there. Her ex-husband is generally complimentary about her, which is all you can ask for in an ex. And while we wait for Wendy to make her decision, here are some of the things on which she will base that decision.
“Before I look people in the eye and say, ‘Will you spend time volunteering for me? Will you dedicate resources to me?’ I want to make sure that I’m asking them to do something that I can tell them, with conviction, I believe we can accomplish,” said Davis, 50.
Asked about the effect a losing race would have on her own political future, she said: “I won’t do it if I think I’m going to lose.”
Davis said she’s unfazed at the prospect of a tough race, having encountered them for Fort Worth City Council and Texas Senate.
She says her record on issues including education, economic development and government accountability shows she doesn’t look at things through a liberal Democratic lens but as one “who believes everyone deserves opportunity.”
“I’m willing to take a few knocks in the head or the gut for something I believe in,” she said. “I’m not intimidated by that. … I have a story to tell that hopefully people will listen to and believe offers them something different than what they’ve had in Texas for a long time – if I decide to run.”
I think there are plenty of people who are eager to give their time, money, and energy to her campaign even if she believes her odds are very long. Hope is a powerful thing, and whatever the odds are, Davis remains the most exciting candidate since Ann Richards. You can crunch the numbers till your fingers hurt, if this is The Moment you either take it or you don’t, and you accept whatever comes next.