News Column

Davis Filibuster Gives Burton a Boost

July 17, 2013
konni burton
Konni Burton (image: Konni Burton for State Senate)

Sen. Wendy Davis' filibuster against a package of stringent abortion regulations ignited support for Konni Burton's campaign to unseat the Fort Worth Democrat.

While attention was heaped on Davis' pink shoes and the contributions rolling into her campaign, Burton said Texans disgusted by Davis' stand turned to her.

"There's been lots and lots of support coming my way just because of that," said Burton, the tea party Republican candidate in Senate District 10.

During last Friday's final debate over the controversial measure, hundreds solicited donations for Burton on Twitter. Thousands on Facebook have shared a graphic created by the Burton campaign that reads, "FIRE Wendy Davis!"

So far, the volume of anti-abortion activists and voters has been higher than their giving.

Davis has netted nearly 10 times the campaign cash as Burton and 20 times as much as Republican Mark Shelton, according to campaign finance reports released Monday.

In 15,290 donations, Davis raised more than $930,000, bringing her cash on hand to nearly $1.1 million.

Amid speculation that Davis could spend that money to stoke the filibuster fervor into a campaign for statewide office, spokesman Rick Svatora said Davis plans to fight to keep her Senate seat "and the rest will work itself out."

"Texans from around the state have been generous with their contributions, enthusiastic with their support, and committed to joining me in the fight for the priorities of Texas families," Davis said in a news release Monday. On Tuesday, she added, "I'm proud to have won the support of Democratic, Independent and Republican voters in Senate District 10."

Mark Jones, chairman of political science at Rice University, said Davis has a clear fundraising edge in the state Senate race.

"It's a real boon to her re-election efforts," Jones said. "More so than as seed money for a gubernatorial bid."

Thanks to 139 contributions and a $100,000 personal loan from her husband, Burton's campaign fund had $109,000 in the bank as of June 30.

Shelton said he is not worried that he has about $44,000 so far, noting he has not fully assembled his campaign staff nor done much fundraising.

"The attention she's getting is from Democrats who have supported her anyways," Shelton said of Davis.

Both opponents contend Davis' financial edge does not guarantee a victory more than a year out from Election Day 2014, especially when her 2012 victory over Shelton was so narrow and her opposition to the abortion omnibus bill highlights a liberal streak at odds with other officials elected from the district.

"Mitt Romney won this district. Ted Cruz won this district. And then Wendy Davis won," said Burton. "There was a lot of people who didn't realize what she stood for."

Davis eked out a win over Shelton in 2012, capturing 51 percent of the vote in the state's most expensive, and arguably nastiest, legislative race.

Except for her "prolific" fundraising ability, the advantages Davis had in that race largely have disappeared, said political consultant Bryan Eppstein, who worked for Shelton in 2012.

"Texas tends to be five points more Republican in gubernatorial years," Eppstein said.

Like Shelton, he played down the national spotlight, arguing that even if out-of-state Democrats celebrate Davis and give to her campaign, none of them gets a Texas ballot.

Jones said this first wave of campaign finance reports looks promising for Davis, saying an opponent would have to raise $3 million to be competitive.

In 2012, she spent $3.5 million to Shelton's $2.5 million to win in what is arguably Texas' only swing Senate district.

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