For someone evidently tasked with leading Texas Democrats back to some sense of relevance, Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth, EMILY’s List) doesn’t appear to have the strongest political acumen.
Fresh off filibustering popular legislation banning abortions after 20-weeks in June, which vaunted the previously unknown state senator into national headlights, the would-be hope of Texas’s defeated left is pivoting to gun control.
In an interview last week with the Texas Tribune, Davis acknowledged that, should she one day reside in the Governor’s Mansion, she’d back tougher regulations on Texas gun show sales:
“I haven’t pursued it as a senator because I know it’s like spitting in the wind,” Davis told the Texas Tribune. “But I still believe it’s the right thing. And if I were governor and a bill came to my desk that provided for background checks at gun shows, I would sign that.”
As a member of the Fort Worth City Council, she pushed for further gun show restrictions on sales between individuals, pursuits long-driven by gun-grabbers. Politically speaking, such a posture goes against the grain of ever winning statewide in the Lone Star State.
Davis further sought banning gun shows on city-owned property, a more radical posture aimed at eradicating the presence of firearms at convention centers and the like.
Austin, a blue bastion in a sea of red, pursued similar restrictions this year. In an interesting twist, her likely GOP opponent, Attorney General Greg Abbott, vowed a “double-barreled lawsuit,” and the city subsequently abandoned the plan.
Davis is alienating herself from a broad swath of voters, and has enabled an already-advantaged rival to draw contrast without even mentioning her name.
Davis pushes back by touting the guns she owns, and her vote this year to enable firearm possession in cars on college campuses, efforts aimed at toeing a centrist line resembling Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
Yet that measure cleared the state Senate by a 27-4 margin, meaning it was an easy vote that won’t sufficiently calm the concerns of conservative-leaning voters who’ve proven wary of electing Democrats.
Pushed by national progressive groups, Davis is flirting with entering the Texas gubernatorial race, a tall order by default for a Democrat, and most assume she will run.
A Democratic nominee for president hasn’t carried Texas since 1976, they haven’t won a gubernatorial contest in 23 years, and every statewide office is held by Republicans.
Democrats apparently think that the path to making Texas competitive again runs through a nominee that failed to block a popular pro-life bill and supports fresh gun control measures.
Hope springs eternal in some quarters.
Those same national groups urging a Davis for Governor run cite demographic changes as drivers that will eventually reverse the state’s generation-long conservative tide. Say what one will about such trends nationally, but Texas is quintessentially skeptical of Davis’s big-government ideology, demographic shifts aside.
After all, we’re talking about a state whose sitting governor shot a coyote to death, bragged about doing so to the press, and won re-election by a landslide in 2010.
From a more practical standpoint, Abbott is a near-consensus nominee, combining support from Republicans of all stripes and a breakneck fundraising machine at no risk of being matched.
So capitalizing on a divisive GOP primary isn’t an option, leaving Wendy Davis with a bad hand to begin with, one continually made worse as her positions become clearer.
Brandon Howell is an account director at Hynes Communications and contributor to the Peach State political blog Georgia Tipsheet. His political commentary has been published in The Daily Caller, Townhall, The Hill, and Campaigns & Elections.