Defiant Texas legislator Davis persists against the odds

AUSTIN, Texas Wed Jun 26, 2013 6:19pm EDT

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AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - State Senator Wendy Davis, the woman whose 10-hour speech captured national attention and single-handedly slowed the Texas Republican drive to restrict abortion, has overcome long odds before in her life.

While her defiance of the mostly male Texas Republicans may ultimately fail because Governor Rick Perry on Wednesday called another special session of the legislature to consider abortion curbs, the bid propelled her to stardom in a Texas Democratic party that has not won a statewide office in two decades.

She was already considered a possible future candidate for governor before she stood in the Legislature on Tuesday to begin a talk-a-thon that stalled the abortion plan.

Her filibuster was streamed live on websites across the country, transforming her into an articulate spokeswoman for abortion rights and women's groups fighting to limit restrictions on legal abortion in the United States.

The Texas law would ban abortion after 20 weeks pregnancy, with few exceptions, and impose a host of other restrictions.

"We always knew she's a rock star, it's just now I think the rest of the country knows it, too," said fellow Democratic state Senator Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio.

Part of Davis' appeal is a personal story that took her from an underprivileged background and living in a trailer park with a young daughter, to the Capitol Dome in Austin.

Davis, 50, started working at age 14 to help support her single mother and by 19 was a single mother herself, according to her campaign website. She studied at a community college and went on to graduate from Texas Christian University and Harvard Law School.

During the filibuster, she spoke in personal terms of how the local Planned Parenthood clinic was her health refuge in those early years.

She served for nine years on the Fort Worth City Council and was elected to the state Senate in 2008, upsetting a longtime incumbent. Despite a Republican redrawing of election lines last year, she was narrowly reelected.

Davis has used the filibuster to frustrate majority Republicans before, temporarily blocking approval of cuts in education funding in 2011.

A June poll from the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune showed that 58 percent of registered voters in the state had no opinion about Davis. That has almost certainly changed.

"She's definitely received a lot of attention over the past 24 hours, just really an unimaginable amount," said Austin-based Republican consultant Matt Mackowiak. "That translates into an ability to raise money and an online army that no Democrat in Texas had 24 hours ago."

With a rising Hispanic population, Democrats in the nation's second most populous state hope they can eventually turn Texas a shade of Democratic blue.

But Mackowiak doubts Davis could win a statewide office in Texas in 2014, because he said a successful statewide Democrat would need to be more moderate and business-friendly.

Perry, the longest serving governor in Texas state history, is expected to announce soon whether he will seek reelection.

"In the heat of the moment right now, certainly there are a lot of people that just want her to call a press conference and declare her candidacy for the governorship," said James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas. "But I think it will take more careful consideration than that."

(Reporting By Corrie MacLaggan; Editing by Greg McCune, Chris Reese and Leslie Gevirtz)

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Comments (3)
TheNewWorld wrote:
Is she saying in her personal story that she wished she had gotten an abortion? Twenty weeks is 5 months people. Babies born premature at 6 months have a high survival rate. Lets just make the morning after pill cheap and readily available and avoid the whole abortion process entirely. I am pro-choice, but I can respect the pro-lifers position on late term abortions. I mean if you don’t support that, how about just snapping the babies neck at birth, would that be ok?

Jun 26, 2013 7:33pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
React wrote:

I agree wholeheartedly with everything you said. I too am pro-choice, but late term abortions are seemingly unnecessary, with chances to abort throughout the pregnancy. The real issue is that women should be the ones deciding these issues, women should be empowered and men’s hold stop legislating these issues.

Jun 26, 2013 11:49pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
actnow wrote:
Having a two month onl newborn makes me think about what she is fighting for….the ability to terminate a 5 month old unborn child. Who will protect them if we don’t?

Jun 27, 2013 12:59pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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