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Anatomy of a Leak: How Wendy Davis Gains From Reports of Governor Run

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

The word is out: Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis will run for governor.

News of Sen. Davis’ run, attributed to anonymous Democratic sources, shot around newsrooms yesterday; a formal announcement is expected next week. But it’s unlikely the story was an inadvertent leak from the Davis camp. 

Ross Ramsey with KUT’s reporting partner The Texas Tribune says the announcement is part of a carefully crafted media narrative.

“First she is considering it, and then she is talking to friends, and then people are encouraging her, and then we had a delay, and then we have the announcement that she will make an announcement next week, and now we’ve got rumors that she’s going to announce that she’s going to run,” Ramsey says. “And then when she announces, she’ll announce. If you’re a candidate, it’s all free media and that’s kind of the way that the world of political gossip and news works.”

Maybe every single step in the process isn’t that coordinated: Davis postponed her announcement to spend time with her father, who died earlier this month. But other signs – like Davis’ pitch on Twitter she “has big news,” sent out the same day of the leak – look decidedly intentional.

St. Edward’s University political science professor Brian Smith says the leaks do two things: they build anticipation and, more importantly, help kick off the fundraising.

“If you announce early, people are going to start donating sooner,” Smith says. “So that way, she can make the announcement and then say, ‘Listen, I’ve just raised X-million dollars.’”

Smith estimates Davis’ campaign will need some $40 million dollars to campaign against Texas attorney general Greg Abbott, who is running on the Republican ticket. “So the sooner she starts fundraising, the better off she’ll be,” Smith says.  

Davis was propelled into the national spotlight earlier this year after her filibuster in the Texas Senate temporarily delayed adoption of new state laws restricting abortion. If Davis runs and wins, she would be the first Democrat elected to statewide office in Texas in 20 years.

As if one schedule, new details from the Davis camp continue to emerge. The Texas Tribune reports Davis will make the announcement Oct. 3 at Wiley G. Thomas Coliseum in Haltom City, Texas – “the auditorium where she received her high school diploma in 1981.” 

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion-dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on X @KUTnathan.
Wells has been a part of KUT News since 2012, when he was hired as the station's first online reporter. He's currently the social media host and producer for Texas Standard, KUT's flagship news program. In between those gigs, he served as online editor for KUT, covering news in Austin, Central Texas and beyond.
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