Bud Kennedy

After abortion filibuster, Democrats didn’t have a prayer

For the first time in the 21st century, Texas has a new governor.

Heck, it took only 14 years.

Attorney General Greg Abbott is no longer Texas’ governor-in-waiting, and this almost could have been predicted two decades ago.

In 1995, then-Agriculture Commissioner Rick Perry signed a fundraising letter for Abbott, an unknown Houston lawyer running for district judge.

The very next year, Abbott set his sights on statewide office and hired a consultant: Karl Rove.

Now Abbott comes to the Governor’s Mansion with plenty of old-guard Republican cred, but also with new support from emboldened Christian conservatives.

According to the Houston Chronicle archives, that first Abbott campaign letter in 1995 was also signed by evangelical leaders of the day such as Fran Chiles of Fort Worth and Dick Weinhold of Bedford.

On Tuesday, in an election ballyhooed for a year as a fight for women’s votes, some of Abbott’s most important support came from religious conservative women.

Mia Garza McCord grew up as the granddaughter of Democratic county officials in South Texas but now campaigns for Republicans’ Red State Women.

“My whole family in Hebbronville is voting Republican for the very first time,” McCord, 30, of Cedar Park said by phone Tuesday.

McCord and her husband, John, welcomed a baby boy to their family last year at the peak of the Texas Legislature’s abortion debate.

At birth, John Mark McCord weighed 1 pound, 4.8 ounces. It was her 26th week of pregnancy.

McCord’s family never voted for Republicans. But the Democrats she remembers never led filibusters for abortion rights, as Democrat Wendy Davis did in the moment that wrote both her fame and her fate.

Recent polls show that even younger, Democratic-leaning voters who no longer consider gay marriage an issue at all still support abortion restrictions.

“Younger women embrace technology and see scientific advancements,” McCord said.

“Modern medicine and the power of prayer goes far. Look at our tiny 1-pound baby, healthy and running around.”

At 58, state Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, is from a different generation of culture warriors.

But she saw the same result.

“Christian conservative women were turned off by the Democratic campaign,” said Klick, a former Texas Eagle Forum volunteer and county party chairwoman.

“This year’s campaign was just too much. I think Democrats came off as hostile to people of faith.”

Davis rarely mentioned her Baptist faith except in her book. It didn’t help when Houston Mayor Annise Parker was drawn into a city legal dispute that involved subpoenaing pastors’ sermons.

“There just isn’t any diversity of views in that party anymore,” Klick said.

Democrats used to say that about Republicans.

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