State Sen. Wendy Davis didn’t say it will be easy.
But the Fort Worth Democrat believes she can beat the odds and win her unlikely bid to become Texas’ 48th governor.
“I am brave enough to believe in our tomorrow,” she told thousands of Democrats gathered at their state convention Friday night. “I am brave enough to believe in our children.
“I am brave enough to believe in the future of this great state.”
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Often described as her party’s “rock star,” Davis put on a show Friday night, laying out her case for why she — and not Texas Attorney General and GOP gubernatorial nominee Greg Abbott — should head to the governor’s mansion next year.
Introduced by her daughters Amber and Dru, Davis, a former Fort Worth City Council member, formally accepted her party’s nomination and moved on to paint her chief opponent as a party insider who will put himself ahead of Texans’ best interests.
“Here’s the truth about Greg Abbott’s values: Greg Abbott is a career insider,” Davis said. “As a judge and as attorney general, Greg Abbott has proven over and over again that he is another insider, protecting and defending insiders who just aren’t working for you.
“As a judge and a lawyer, he’s spent his career defending insiders, protecting insiders, stacking the deck for insiders and making hardworking Texans pay the price,” she said. “He is not fit to be your governor.”
Davis, who drew worldwide attention last year when she embarked on an 11-hour filibuster that temporarily derailed tougher abortion restrictions, said she has fought for Texans before — and will do so again.
Together, she said, Texans who want a better future can pave a different path.
“We can come together to fight for our promise,” she said. “We can come together to summon our dreams.
“We can come together … uniting with common purpose and shared values to affirm our future, to build our tomorrow,” she said. “And when we do that, we will win.”
Abbott’s campaign took the opportunity Friday to fly an anti-Davis banner over the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas where the Democrats are meeting. The banner said, “Don’t California our Texas.”
“The sky is the limit when it comes to how far left Sen. Davis is willing to push her agenda,” said Matt Hirsch, communications director for Abbott.
“Given her support of ObamaCare and her plan to raise taxes on Texas families to pay for big government mandates, it’s no wonder Sen. Davis feels more at home with liberals in Hollywood than she does talking to Texas voters.
“While Sen. Davis’ policies may be well-received in deep blue states like California, Texans will continue to reject her out-of-touch agenda.”
The Democratic convention ends Saturday after delegates elect leaders and approve the platform and rules to guide the party.
‘Close this gap’
After Davis gained wide attention from last year’s filibuster, Democrats encouraged her to try to claim the Governor’s Mansion, which hasn’t housed a Democrat since Ann Richards left in 1995.
Davis consistently trails Abbott in polls, and Republicans say she doesn't have a chance of winning.
But Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said there’s time to turn this race around.
“People are busy leading their lives and doing the best they can,” he said. “They aren’t focused on elections yet.
“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done. But we can close this gap.”
Davis said she’s focused on the end-game: providing good-paying jobs for Texans, ensuring better roads and adequate water resources, not to mention making sure “predatory payday lenders” can’t take advantage of the poorest of Texans.
“That’s the Texas of tomorrow,” she said. “Even as I’m standing before you tonight, I know we’ll be fighting side by side this day and every day until we have a voice in the governor’s mansion.”
That, she said, is a fight worth fighting.
“Texas has come a long way,” Davis said. “But today, 14 years into this new century, I believe we’re at a turning point.
“And this election will determine whether the Texas of tomorrow will work for all hardworking Texans and all Texas communities or whether it’ll be held back by the old ways of the good-old-boy network that has simply taken us as far as it can.”
Second in command
Friday was Davis’s day, but she shared the spotlight with other state Democratic stars.
State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, the party’s nominee for lieutenant governor, said she knows the task before her is daunting.
But she has faced challenges before.
“The first time I knew that I needed to use my voice and fight was when I was in junior high. I was told I couldn’t run for president of the student council,” the San Antonio lawmaker said. “Why? Because I was a girl.
“Well I did, and I won. I knew then what I know now. I need to run, not just because I am a girl, but because I want the responsibility; because I know what needs to get done. And I know I’m the right person for the job.”
Van de Putte said her Republican opponent — state Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston — will fight hard to ensure that control of the Senate stays in Republican hands.
“He will come at me with everything he’s got,” she said. “Well, let me tell you, Dan, I ain’t in it for the show. I ain’t no pushover. I ain’t no East Coast liberal. I ain’t no West Coast Democrat.
“This grandma’s name is Leticia San Miguel Van de Putte from the barrio, and I am a Tejana,” she said. “I am a Texas Democrat.”
She said she’s ready to do what must be done to make Texas a better place for all residents and “put Texas first.”
“It’s about that Texas spirit — that our better days are ahead, that we will leave this land just a little better than when we found it.”
‘New Texas is coming’
State Sen. Kirk Watson, a former Austin mayor, warmed up the crowd Friday evening.
“This isn’t as good as it gets,” he said. “Texas can do better.
“And Texans deserve so much better.”
Dallas state Sen. Royce West, who chaired the convention, said if Texans want change, then it’s just around the corner.
He asked delegates repeat after him: “I will do whatever I need to do to turn Texas blue.”
State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, head of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, said he’s tired of the way Texas is being run.
“For far too long now, our great state has been led by Republicans who don’t truly believe in Texas,” he said. “Sure, they talk a big game, but their actions are weak and their words ring hollow. They preach the good book, but don’t live by the Lord’s word. In other words, far too often, they preach religion while they worship money.”
But they may well face a problem in the Nov. 4 election, he said.
“Their problem is you,” he said. “They know the new Texas is coming.”