AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — State Sen. Wendy Davis was expected to formally announce her campaign for governor Thursday, becoming the first Democrat to make an official bid for a statewide office.
Her campaign was setting the stage at the Haltom City civic center, where she received her high school diploma, and supporters organized watch parties in 18 cities across the state, the pro-Democrat political action committee Battleground Texas said.
Davis has said that her experience going from being a single teen mother to a successful Harvard-trained attorney informs her progressive politics and her commitment to Texas' middle-class residents.
The Fort Worth lawmaker rose to national prominence in June for her nearly 13-hour filibuster against new abortion restrictions in Texas. Since then, Democrats have urged her to run for governor in 2014 and reinvigorate a party that hasn't won statewide office since 1994. Her speech also added to her donor list, both in Texas and across the country.
Republican Gov. Rick Perry has chosen not to seek re-election, and Attorney General Greg Abbott is the front-runner for the GOP nomination. Davis must raise money quickly to compete with Abbott — he already has $25 million to her more than $1 million.
Experts say Davis and the political action committees supporting her will need to spend about $40 million to make it a competitive campaign in Texas, where Democrats have not won more than 42 percent of the vote in the last three elections.
But national Democratic support and changing state demographics give Davis a chance to end the party's 20-year losing streak in Texas, Democratic consultants say.
Davis' personal story — from a trailer park to Texas Christian University to the esteemed Harvard Law School — has captured the imagination of many of her supporters.
She was a successful attorney when she decided to enter politics by challenging a veteran Republican state senator in Tarrant County in 2008. She narrowly won that race and a tough re-election bid in 2012, when most voters in her district cast ballots for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Observers say her ability to win Republican crossover votes will be critical if she expects to beat Abbott, who has the full strength of the GOP establishment behind him.
Davis originally promised to announce her intentions by Labor Day, but her father became ill following complications from abdominal surgery and died Sept. 5.
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Original headline: Democrat Davis to announce Texas gubernatorial bid
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