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In Davis vs. Abbott, Hopes For a Competitive Race for Texas Governor

Laura Buckman / Bob Daemmrich

This year's governor's race was billed as the first actual competitive race for Texas governor since Ann Richards lost to George Bush in 1994. Current Governor Rick Perry was stepping down, making way for Attorney General Greg Abbott to take the GOP nomination. Newly-minted national political celebrity State Senator Wendy Davis made a run for Democrats.

But unless something unexpected happens today, the race could be a repeat of the GOP 12 point win in 2010.

The race opened with Abbott finally stepping out of Governor Perry's nearly 14 year shadow. Perry announced he would not seek a fourth full term on July 8th. Less than a week later, after years of waiting...and raising a bunch of money, Abbott finally announced his run for the governor's office.

Abbott would have to wait almost three months before his eventual Democratic challenger officially entered the race. It was no surprise Davis made that decision. She had been targeted for a state-wide race since her more than 11-hour filibuster of an abortion restrictions bill at the end of the June 2013 special legislative session.

Davis was catapulted to the national spotlight that night. And once she officially announced her run, campaign donations to make it a legitimate race followed.

But the anticipated battle never really materialized. Abbott spent the first months of his campaign raising millions, traveling the state, and generally ignoring Davis. He instead focused on his ongoing legal battles with the federal government, and the fact that President Obama is unpopular in Texas.

Davis had a couple of stumbles out of the gate, with media reports contradicting her personal history. There was also a shakeup of her top campaign staffers. That might have been all the room Abbott needed to win a race where he was already considered the frontrunner. 

Battleground Texas, the group working to turn Red Texas a little more purple, worked hand in hand with Democrats and the Davis campaign to help boost her chances. But the group never set a timetable on just how quickly it could get Democrats to win a state-wide race, with most people thinking the state won't be competitive until around 2018. 

Turnout will be a key in the race. Polls show Davis trailing by double digits. Her best chance to close that gap will be by getting unlikely or first-time voters to the polls. But that's not going to be easy. After all, they're called "unlikely" voters for a reason.

Ben Philpott is the Managing Editor for KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @BenPhilpottKUT.
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