State Politics

Wendy Davis won’t rule out future campaign, but says 2018 run ‘very doubtful’

Wendy Davis
Wendy Davis mfaulkner@star-telegram

Texas Democrats waiting for Wendy Davis to seek another political office will have to wait at least a little while longer.

The former state senator and gubernatorial candidate said politics remains in her future, but she’s just not ready for another campaign right now — which means she won’t enter the battle for the U.S. Senate when Republican incumbent Ted Cruz is up for re-election.

“I would love to run again,” Davis told the media before speaking to a sold-out crowd at Southern Methodist University’s annual Women’s Symposium. “I’m very committed to Texas and to changing the landscape in Texas.

“I think there will be opportunities ahead,” the Democrat and former Fort Worth city councilwoman said, adding that she doesn’t know yet which political post might be the right one. “Time will tell. I don’t really have my sights set on anything in particular.”

But she said one thing is for sure.

“It’s very doubtful you’ll see my name on a ballot in 2018,” she said, referring to speculation that she would seek the Democratic nomination for Cruz’s seat. “No Senate.”

Davis, a former state senator from Fort Worth who unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2014, drew national attention in 2013 when she fought against a proposed abortion bill in Texas. She stood and spoke for more than 11 hours on June 25, 2013, on the floor of the Texas Senate.

As she spoke, trying to prevent some of the country’s most restrictive abortion regulations, thousands of people on both sides of the issue jammed into the Texas Capitol. That night, as the Senate tried to vote on the proposal, people in the gallery made so much noise that senators couldn’t hear one another, and the disruption prevented the chamber from passing the measure as the first special session ended.

“The people in the gallery rose and began to scream with all their might,” Davis said. “Because of their beautiful, thunderous, amazing voices, … the Secretary of the Senate was unable to take a voice vote in time. And, at least momentarily, we killed that bill.”

The bill was quickly approved a few weeks later, after the Republican-led Legislature was called back for a second special session. The U.S. Supreme Court has since struck down some of the provisions.

Davis went on to run for Texas governor in 2014, losing by about 1 million votes to Republican Greg Abbott. Since then, she has left Fort Worth, moved to Austin and traveled around the country for a variety of speaking engagements.

On Wednesday, International Women’s Day, she spoke at SMU’s Hughes-Trigg Student Center about the “economic consequences of constraining reproductive autonomy.”

New initiative

Last year, Davis launched a new initiative — Deeds Not Words — geared to help young women make a difference in their communities. The nonprofit online effort, described as an “online engagement initiative,” helps provide resources and “toolkits” to boost growing grassroots political efforts of millennial women.

The goal is to help a new generation of young women become politically involved so they can work on issues such as equal pay, workplace equality and reproductive rights.

“Deeds Not Words has been busy — building radical momentum, resisting, igniting spirits, checking privilege, passing torches, blazing paths,” Davis wrote in a recent newsletter, adding that the initiative has worked with people who participated in the Women’s March and testified on various bills at the Texas Capitol. “Deeds Not Words was created … to empower the next generation of advocates for positive change.”

She said this effort is training the next generation of advocates, as young as high school students, who now are now reviewing legislation proposed in the Texas Legislature addressing campus sexual assault practices and procedures and sex trafficking.

Work on this and other issues will help “grow and groom that next level of women leaders” and encourage more women to run for political office themselves.

SMU leaders said they were pleased Davis spoke at their symposium.

“We believe she is an inspiration to all women, especially in Texas,” said Aurora Havens, Women’s Symposium co-chair and a senior at SMU.

The theme of this year’s student-planned symposium was “My Body, Not Their Politics,” and focused on women and politics as well as the politics around issues ranging from “reproductive justice” to sexual violence.

SMU created the symposium in 1966 as it was celebrating its 50th anniversary. Through the years, speakers have ranged from Hillary Clinton to Marlee Matlin.

Women’s rights

Davis spoke to the crowd Wednesday about the struggles women have faced through the years — from fighting for birth control, which let women join the workforce full time, to the ability to get an abortion.

“Women have finally been able to control their reproductive destiny,” she said.

Not only that, but the economy would be smaller if women were not able to be full-time contributors.

“When we earn more money, we put it back into the economy to provide for our families,” she said. “It’s not just a trite and quippy campaign slogan to say that when women do better, we all do better.

“It is absolutely true.”

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley

An estimated 5,000 to 6,000 people turned out in downtown Fort Worth to promote women’s rights on the day after Donald Trump became the country’s 45th president. (Max Faulkner/Star-Telegram)

A Washington, D.C. official says the estimated turnout for the Women's March in the city now stands at a half a million. It is about double the amount of people who showed up to President Donald Trump's inauguration.