|Why Run For Governor?
This one's simple -- that's where the power is. The governor makes appointments, from state agencies to Boards of Regents to vacancies in elected state offices. The governor wields veto power, and can demand a state budget that restores cuts to education made in 2011 and keeps pace with enrollment growth.
Keep in mind that the State Senate can change the rules to not only ignore the 2/3rds rule if she runs and wins re-election to the Senate (and her winning re-election is no sure bet, to be clear), but also change the rules to give the Lieutenant Governor little to no actual power.
Her power is greatest if she wins the top job. Furthermore, I don't think it would be easy to convince sporadic and drop-off voters to vote for Davis for a statewide office further down the ballot. It's akin to putting the best act at a music festival on in the middle of the afternoon on the first day, rather than in the last slot on Saturday night.
It just seems, well, odd to have our strongest statewide candidate running for something other than the top job, and I think that makes it a tougher argument to sporadic voters.
Why Run: The Rational Arguments
There are many rational reasons why Wendy Davis needs to seize on this specific opportunity and run for Governor this cycle.
Davis can run and win tough general election campaigns. Davis has already presented herself as our state's most capable campaigner in tough general election match-ups. She won two hotly contested State Senate Races, demonstrating her ability to raise money and appeal to cross-over voters -- Romney carried that Senate district by an 8 point margin over Obama.
Davis has a newly gigantic list that can be leveraged into big money. Thanks to her tremendous filibuster, Davis grew her email list, Facebook page, and Twitter followers by what I assume is a substantial amount. The many people who submitted their stories to Davis via email or made donations during the event have likely added a substantial number of potential small-dollar and recurring donors for a statewide campaign. Her fundraising events since have been packed, further growing her national small- and medium-sized donor base. And should she declare for our highest state office, I'm pretty certain her newly enthused national fan base would open their wallets and provide a financial boost that Texas Democratic candidates have not really been able to rely on previously.
Davis's name ID soared during and after her filibuster, now topping that of Attorney General Greg Abbott, her probable opponent. According to a PPP Poll, Davis's name ID soared from 34% to 68%. Her name ID is a net favorable, 39%-29%. Meanwhile, the percentage of voters to whom Abbott is unknown in that same poll sits at 43%, and his net favorability is only +6%. She has less ground to make up than any previous statewide Democrat, and is running against someone who is largely unknown and has avoided difficult statewide elections in the past owing to his Perry appointment to the statewide Texas Supreme Court, and his huge personal wealth.
Davis has a history of leading on the issues voters care most about. She filibustered the $5.4 billion in cuts to education in 2011, and has a history of refusing to back down from funding our Texas kids' schools. Her record on education, healthcare access, and women's health is particularly well suited to the demographics of voters that Democrats need to turn out or persuade in this upcoming election. Plus, she's shown courage and authentic leadership time and again -- and voters really respond to that.
But it's more than just the rational arguments that matter here. It's the opportunity to finish the job she started in the morning of June 25th and reinvigorate Democratic organizing and give her party something to believe in.
The Emotional Arguments For Running and For Wendy
For the first time in a long time, Democrats have momentum and hope. If she doesn't run, what message does that send to our party, and who else can credibly carry the mantle of that renewed enthusiasm? If she doesn't run, it will pop the balloon of hope and optimism Texas Democrats feel, one that is grounded in something concrete -- a viable candidate for governor at a moment when the stars all seem to align in her favor.
Wendy Davis's own story is incredibly emotionally stirring, as a single mom living in a trailer park who worked her way to Harvard Law School and now the State Senate. Her narrative would arguably make her the most compelling figure in the race for governor, as she embodies what happens when our leaders give people the opportunity to climb the ladder of success, rather than use their power to take opportunity away from others.
I understand that it can be difficult to run with the added pressure of being the "savior" of a party or even an issue position. But I can only assume that Davis has seen worse in her life than a bad day on the campaign trail, and can run with the knowledge that losing isn't going to send her back to the circumstances where her narrative began.
Frankly, I worry that if she doesn't run, Democrats will lose the opportunity to capture the optimism, renewed interest, and energy of the folks who came to the Capitol or watched her epic filibuster worldwide. We need a credible steward to hold that flame aloft and run with it. These are unique circumstances faced by Davis, and I'd argue that comparisons to past elections simply don't fit given the fall and now rebirth of not only the Democratic Party but progressive organizing writ large in Texas.
There's a palpable excitement in the air around Davis, from the Capitol to her recent fundraisers to the tones in which previously disengaged people discuss her heroic stand for women. I worry that to pass that up is to miss a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
If Not Wendy, Who? If Not Now, When?
For years, the viability of statewide Democratic candidates in Texas has seemed grounded in a chicken-or-egg dilemma: how do we build infrastructure without candidates? How do we recruit candidates without infrastructure?
Over the last year, infrastructure in Texas has started to develop in a major way, thanks to a revitalized Texas Democratic Party and the launch of Battleground Texas. Battleground, in particular, is already deploying an army of deputy voter registrars across the state, working to change our bottom-of-the-barrel registration and participation.
That infrastructure that we've needed to campaign effectively statewide is growing, and Battleground Texas -- as well as the broad array of progressive non-profits that also do important organizing work -- need a strong candidate to organize around this cycle to move the needle.
And if Texas Democrats want a potential Democratic nominee in Hillary Clinton to potentially campaign hard in the state -- not an unreasonable request given her decent current poll numbers here and long-standing positive relationship with Hispanic voters -- why should she invest if Democrats can't get to 46% or 47% this cycle? We need the strongest candidate possible to get there -- and to set Democrats on the path to recapture the Governor's mansion by 2018 at the latest.
Losing Isn't The Worst, And She May Well Not Lose
For some, it's probably easy to rebut this entire argument with "she'll lose, and we'll lose any hope of controlling the Senate." But long-term, the people of Texas need rational leaders who will do what's in the interest of our entire state -- and frankly, that means electing Democrats to statewide office. If the events of these special sessions have not made clear that the time is now for Wendy Davis to run, I'm not sure what stronger signal can be sent by the universe.
I am certain that if Davis chooses to run, she'll have the best team imaginable and will fight for every vote, and campaign in a manner befitting this great state. And I'm also confident that if it doesn't go her way -- and make no mistake, it will be a close election if she gets in it -- it won't hurt her ability to run again in 2018. In fact, I'd argue that it puts her at the front of the line for a state with even more favorable demographic opportunities and the work of Battleground Texas, which by then will have been tilling the ground for 5 years.
But more than that, I think the Texas GOP isn't as strong as people think they are. National conservative groups are nervous enough to pledge in millions of dollars in supposedly "safe" Texas. And bear in mind, the Republicans lost many high-profile competitive general election races in 2012 -- Congressman Pete Gallego, Sheriff Adrian Garcia, Representatives Joe Moody, Mary Ann Perez, and Abel Herrero, Fort Bend County Commissioner Richard Morrison, oh, and Senator Wendy Davis are all proof that when Democrats run well-funded, professional campaigns with favorable electoral circumstances, we can and do win.
Those electoral circumstances are trending our way, and the "intangibles" of an excited, motivated base of not just Democrats but also people sick of the business as usual at the Capitol make it an opportunity too good to pass up.
She should do it. And if y'all thought there were a lot of people willing to stand with Wendy, wait until you see how many people are willing to run alongside her.