Wendy Davis narrows choices to running for Texas governor, reele - KYTX CBS 19 Tyler Longview News Weather Sports

Wendy Davis narrows choices to running for Texas governor, reelection


By Ashley Killough

Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis said Monday with "absolute certainty" that she'll either run for her current seat again or run for governor next year.

But the Democrat essentially ruled out a different statewide bid, such as a U.S. Senate seat or the lieutenant governor's office.

Davis, who rose to national fame after her 13-hour filibuster to block a Texas bill restricting abortions, spoke to a friendly audience at the National Press Club in Washington, where she gave a lengthy speech about her life and positions on a variety of issues.

Before Gov. Rick Perry announced last month he would not pursue another term, chatter was high among national and Texas Democrats that Davis might challenge the longtime Republican governor, who Davis publicly feuded with in the recent abortion debate.

While Perry is now out of the picture, Davis said she's still being asked about a potential run for governor.

"I'm working very hard to decide what my next steps will be. I do think that in Texas people feel like we need a change from the very fractured, very partisan leadership that we're seeing in our state," she said.

Asked about Perry's possible 2016 bid for president, David joked: "I have three responses to that."

The swipe was a nod to Perry's "oops" moment at a GOP presidential debate last cycle when he forgot the third of three federal agencies he said he would cut.

If Davis is running for governor, her speech Monday certainly could have been a preamble to a potential campaign announcement. While associated nationally with women's issues, Davis spent a significant portion of her speech talking about other topics: education, the Texas economy, consumer reform in the predatory lending industry, veterans issues, transportation and water infrastructure.

A number of elected officials from Texas were also in attendance, supporting their Democratic colleague.

"These leaders are part of the growing movement to build a state that is more star and less lone," she said.

Speaking with a modest but comfortable presence, Davis told a story about working as a 9-year-old with her grandfather to write letters to his friends after he became partially paralyzed from a stroke. The experience, she weaved in, drove her to understand the importance of speaking up for those who can't speak up for themselves.

Davis also shared her unusual life story, rising from poverty to national fame. As a divorced mom at the age of 19, Davis said she relied on microwavable pizzas to last her through four meals, while she spent money on food for her daughter.

"Anyone who believes that anything is bigger in Texas did not see the trailer that my young daughter and I lived in," she said.

She caught a break when she enrolled at Tarrant County's community college, a decision that set her on a course to graduate from Texas Christian University and later earn a law degree at Harvard.

While the filibuster wasn't the main subject of her speech, she's all too aware that she's known for her 13-hour standoff.

"People get a little bit nervous when I approach a podium these days," she joked at the top of her remarks.

"In case you were one of the few people who were not live streaming (the filibuster), I thought I'd repeat the entire thing today," she added, drawing laughs.

For her filibuster, her office had culled together a bunch of personal stories from women around the state who would have been negatively affected had the bill been in place in the past. Her staff cautioned her not to speak too fast, as they worried she would run out of stories too quickly.

But as word spread about her filibuster, more stories began piling into the office email inbox, she said. By the end of the day, they had 16,000 stories.

"At some point in the day, I stopped worrying about running out of stories and instead started worrying about running out of time," she said.

While her effort was successful in blocking the bill at the time, the legislation was later passed in another special session and signed into law by Perry.

The law bans abortions past 20 weeks of gestation, mandates abortion clinics upgrade facilities to become ambulatory surgical centers, and requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic at which they're providing abortion services. Critics say the provisions make abortion and women's health clinics inaccessible to many women across the state.

Following her speech Monday, Davis was peppered with questions from the moderator that had come from the audience. While people most wanted to know about her future, she was also asked twice about Hillary Clinton and about her views on the potential for Texas to become more of a blue state.

But her final question circled the discussion back to the day that put her on the national stage. The moderator asked what Davis did with her pink sneakers, the pair of shoes she wore on the Senate floor that quickly became a symbol of her standoff and prime fodder for social media.

"To the horror of my staff, I immediately put them back on and started to run again," she said. "At some point, I'll set them aside because they'll be a memory that I will treasure forever."

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