Opinion

Will Texans elect a single, female, pro-choice Democrat?

Senator Wendy Davis has the potential to shake things up

Last week, star Sen. Wendy Davis reclaimed the national stage when she announced that she will be running for governor of Texas in the 2014 election.

If you’re not familiar with Davis, she gained national attention after holding an 11-hour long filibuster on June 25 to block Senate Bill 5, a law that would severely increase abortion regulations in Texas. The bill would ban abortions after 20 weeks and close all but five of 42 abortion clinics in the state, thus making it exponentially more difficult for women without cars or the ability to take off work to receive an abortion.

Though the law was eventually signed by Gov. Rick Perry on July 18, Davis’ efforts made her immensely popular among the pro-choice population everywhere. Given her recent ascent to fame, it’s not surprising that she would pursue a higher office.

Realistically, a single woman running for governor of Texas is a stretch, let alone a super pro-choice Democrat. But given some of the circumstances, it seems that Davis could actually win.

First, Davis’ rise to success is astonishing. From being raised by her single mother with a sixth-grade education and no child support, to working at the age of 14, to having a child at 18 and living in a trailer park, to eventually graduating with honors from Harvard Law School, her life epitomizes the hardworking American success story that Republicans like to claim as their own.

Second, while Republicans in Texas, such as probable gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott, aren’t directly responsible for the government shutdown, Republican Party favorability has hit a record low. On Oct. 9, Gallup announced that the party’s favorability was down to 28 percent, 10 full percentage points down from September.

Third, Davis’ filibuster performance over the summer has made her somewhat of a poster child for feminism. This is a candidate whom Democrats are actually excited about. Democrats in Texas who have felt too discouraged to donate in the past may be more likely to do so now. Davis’ national fame may also help her to receive donations and support from outside of Texas. She also has the potential to receive some celebrity endorsements, which seems unlikely in Abbott’s future.

Finally, in terms of demography, in 2012, women made up 55.25 percent of Texas voters, compared with men at 44.75 percent. Women beat men with voter turnout in all but one age group: 65+. The greatest margins of female success were within the 18-24 and 25-34 age grouping. According to recent CAP (Center for American Progress) projections, eligible white voters in Texas will decline from 56 to 52 percent between 2012 and 2016, accompanied by a corresponding rise in minority voters, particularly Hispanics, widely believed to be predominantly Democrats.

Still, winning the Lone Star State will be very difficult for Davis. But flukes do happen, and right now the stars may be aligned for her. After all, it’s not implausible for a female Democrat to win Texas — it’s happened before. The 1990 election of Democratic Gov. Ann Richards serves as an inspiration for Davis and her supporters.

With Texas having 38 electoral votes, the implications of this election are immense. Political science professor Mark Jones at Rice University has a lot of doubts about Davis’ prospects of winning, but he says, “How she performs could have dramatic consequences for the future of partisan politics in Texas and therefore the nation at large. If Texas turns blue, the presidency turns blue.”

Views expressed in the opinion pages represent the opinions of the columnists.