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Interview: The Calculus of a Wendy Davis Run for Governor

State Senator Wendy Davis on the floor of the Texas Senate on June 25, 2013.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT
Wendy Davis during her filibuster of abortion-restricting Senate Bill 5. "She is now an official, certified celebrity who has some life and legs beyond this election cycle," Evan Smith says.

Not since Ann Richards has the star of a Texas Democrat risen as fast or conspicuously as that of Wendy Davis.

Like Richards, Davis has done time in the trenches of democratic politics.

Like Richards, Davis gave a speech that galvanized the party faithful and won her new fans.

Like Richards, Davis became something of a political rock star, gaining attention on the national stage. Now the question remains: will Davis, like Richards, decide to run for Texas governor?

In an email release, Davis says she will announce a decision about her political future on Thursday, Oct. 3.

KUT's David Brown spoke to Texas Tribune co-founder and editor-in-chief Evan Smith, who describes a “complicated calculus” surrounding Davis’ potential run for governor.

“If Davis runs, it’ll be more interesting by virtue of the race,” Smith says. “I’m not certain that the race will be competitive and the outcome won’t be predetermined as it’s been since 1994.”

1994 was the last year a democrat had won a statewide election, Smith explains. This was also the same year that Richards had lost the race for governor to George W. Bush.

Currently, the Texas Senate has 19 Republicans and 12 Democrats, including Davis. Davis has a two-year Senate seat. This means she’s obligated to run in 2014 if she wants to keep her Senate seat. This also means if she decides to run for governor, she’ll give up her seat.

“She could be occasioning a double-whammy,” Smith says. “If she runs for governor and loses, and her Senate successor also runs and loses, Republicans will have 20 seats opposed to 19 and will be only one vote away from the two-thirds trip wire they’d need to bring any bill to session.”

“Imagine a scenario where you have 20 Republican senators and not 19. All it takes is one flaky Democrat to join with Republicans.”

Smith says Davis has to calculate the impact for herself, for her party and then ultimately for the state in running.

“Most people tell me lightning strikes once in a career. She is a major celebrity, she almost has to run. It’s almost her destiny to run. And if by doing so she runs and loses, maybe she becomes a human shield for the Democratic brand.”

Listen to the full interview in the player above. Davis is set to speak at the Texas Tribune Festival the weekend of Sept. 27. Details are at

David entered radio journalism thanks to a love of storytelling, an obsession with news, and a desire to keep his hair long and play in rock bands. An inveterate political junkie with a passion for pop culture and the romance of radio, David has reported from bases in Washington, London, Los Angeles, and Boston for Monitor Radio and for NPR, and has anchored in-depth public radio documentaries from India, Brazil, and points across the United States and Europe. He is, perhaps, known most widely for his work as host of public radio's Marketplace. Fulfilling a lifelong dream of moving to Texas full-time in 2005, Brown joined the staff of KUT, launching the award-winning cultural journalism unit "Texas Music Matters."
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