07/02/2013 11:27 am ET Updated Sep 01, 2013

Another Way Wendy Davis Can Transform Texas Politics


As anyone who follows politics is well aware, Texas State Senator Wendy Davis filibustered a draconian anti-abortion bill in Texas and with the help of her fellow Democratic state senators and the outspoken voices of Texans who have had enough of social conservative extremism in Texas, she stopped that bill from coming into law. In doing so, she has become a national political celebrity and an iconic figure, though she probably is off of Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst's Christmas card list forever now.

There's been no shortage of commentary about the implications of this moment of high political theater. While it is likely that the anti-abortion bill in question will pass in the special session of the Texas legislature called by Governor Rick Perry, Wendy Davis's long-term political future is now a major topic of discussion.

The next gubernatorial election in Texas is in 2014. It didn't go well for the Democrats in 2010 and political observers like Jason Stanford (writing here at The Huffington Post) have pointed out that Davis's chances of victory are not great, should she choose to run. As Stanford states:

Celebrity or not, any Democratic gubernatorial nominee starts out in a big hole. Democratic pollster Stefan Hankin recently cautioned Democrats against trying to turn Texas blue, predicting that shifts in the electorate will likely only earn a Democratic nominee 41.6 percent in 2014. Texas elections don't require a majority to win, and Libertarian and Green Party candidates usually siphon off a couple percentage points, which is how Ann Richards won the governorship in 1990 with 49 percent of the vote. But as an intellectual exercise, figuring out whether Davis can win requires charting a path from the 41.6 percent baseline to 50 percent, a tall order.

That is true and Davis needs to look at that math as she considers whether to run for governor in 2014.

That having been said, I think Wendy Davis has something working in her favor that other Democratic candidates have not had for a very long time. For years, Democrats in Texas have complained that Texas serves as an ATM for the national Democratic Party and that Democratic donors in Texas see their money go out of state with little investment from the national party in trying to change the political dynamics in Texas. There have been recent changes on that front, namely the creation of the Battleground Texas program and the activities of other organizations trying to turn Texas purple, if not blue.

Wendy Davis, if she chooses to run for Texas governor in 2014, would provide a rallying leader for such efforts and that would help turn the flow of campaign funds back into Texas. This funding would be helpful for all Democrats, not just Davis. It's not just a matter of her being able to appeal to out of state donors. It's also a matter of her being able to make local Democrats believe that it is worth investing their money in Texas statewide politics as opposed to local or national politics. This would be a transformation of how Texas sees itself and the rest of the political donor community sees Texas.

Generally, one needs charismatic leadership for something like this to take place. While 2014 isn't the ideal year for a Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Texas, this may be the time to strike while the iron is hot for Davis and as the saying goes, you can't win if you don't play.