Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis formally began her campaign for governor Thursday evening, hoping to succeed Republican Gov. Rick Perry, the longest-serving governor in the Lone Star State’s history.
“I am proud to announce my candidacy to be the 48th governor of this great state,” Davis said. ”It’s time for a leader who doesn’t try to buy Texas. It’s time for a leader who puts Texas first.”
Davis, who became a liberal icon this summer after staging a day-long filibuster against her state’s restrictive abortion legislation, is the first Democrat to make an official bid for the governorship. Thousands of supporters gathered Thursday at Haltom City Civic Center where she received her high school diploma. Before the event, Davis sent a tweet last week inviting them to “wear comfortable shoes and the colors of the Texas flag (red, white and blue).”
“As long as we can make our great state even greater, we will keep going. Until our state is a lot less Lone and a lot more Star, we will keep going,” Davis told the crowd Thursday.
While the odds have not favored her party as Democrats have not won more than 42% of the vote in the last three presidential elections and Republicans hold every statewide office, Davis has seemingly reinvigorated a party that hasn’t held statewide office since Ann Richards in 1994.
“The Texas we need needs you. I need you. I need your help, your support, your prayers, and your vote,” Davis said. ”The best of Texas is yet to come.”
This past summer, the Fort Worth lawmaker rose to national prominence after her filibuster against a ban most abortions after 20 weeks and impose strict requirements on clinics in the state. Davis, the highlight of the day at the Texas Tribune Festival, told the audience that Democrats, particularly women, have since encouraged her to run for office in 2014.
According to the liberal-leaning political action committee Battleground Texas, Davis supporters organized watch parties in 18 cities throughout Texas.
Former Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry has said he will not seek re-election, and Attorney General Greg Abbott is the front-runner for the Republican nomination. A new state poll finds Abbott leading Davis by just 8 points, 29% – 21% in a match-up; 50% of respondents are undecided.
Having launched his campaign mid-July, Abbott has already raised over $25 million. Up until Thursday, Davis has only raised $1 million and pundits are saying she will need to raise much more to compete at the same level as the Republican contender.
Davis’ personal narrative — from being a single teen mother in a Texas trailer park to a Harvard Law School graduate — has also shaped her rising star power, making her a recent champion of progressive politics.
She first entered into politics when she challenged Republican State Senator Kim Brimer in Tarrant County in 2008. Davis won by a narrow margin in 2008 and then faced a tough re-election campaign in 2012 against a Republican House member.