Amid consistently poor polling numbers and key policy positions often indistinguishable from her Republican counterpart, the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) withheld State Senator Wendy Davis from its targeted race list for 2014. Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin dashed hopes by reminding party supporters that Texas has been a reliably red state for two decades.
The announcement was made at a gathering of the Third Way think tank, according to the Wall Street Journal. Party leaders have instead opted to focus offensive operations for governors’ mansions in the Midwest to include Pennsylvania and Ohio–states carried by President Obama in 2012. Florida remains a consistent prize as well.
The DGA’s reduced support for Davis should come as no surprise for voters closely watching the race against Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. Latest Public Policy Polling found that not only was Davis failing to close the overall gap with her Republican rival, but her disapproval rating among women was staggering as well. Though Davis does enjoy better name ID among with voters, Abbott led her 51 to 37 percent in a heads-up survey.
The Davis campaign has faced serious PR and electoral challenges along the Texas border region. During the 2014 Joint Primary, Davis failed to carry half of the border counties–almost all of which are reliably blue when opposing an unfunded, pro-life Democrat. Rather than working to mend fences on the abortion issue, Davis recently balked at an invitation from the McAllen newspaper for a debate. The editor of the paper took to his column space to directly apply pressure for reconsideration.
Aside from selective recollection and faulty promotion of her personal narrative, media have been quick to question the propriety of Davis positioning herself to vote on legislation that directly impacted her law firm’s clients. More recently, Davis has been forced to answer conflict of interest charges regarding her professional relationship with the North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA). A chief example involves Davis advocating for the NTTA on Texas Senate letterhead before the Obama Administration. At the time, the NTTA was a client of her firm, Newby Davis.
Perhaps most damaging among party faithful is Davis’ choice to side with her opponent on some core Democratic platform matters. In February, Davis stunned national supporters by favoring open carry of firearms–an issue likely to be considered in the 2015 legislative session. More recently, the state senator telegraphed an insult to environmental activists by siding with Greg Abbott on the emerging Texas/BLM land standoff in the northern portion of the state. Davis’ anaerobic execution of the War on Women strategy has not indicated any measurable net progress, according to recent polling.
Candidate imperfections aside, perhaps the DGA did not expect to see their message of tax increases and centralized economic reform working in a place like Texas.
“We’re on offense because these Republican governors have uniformly implemented policies that have rewarded the top 1 percent while they have balanced budgets and tax cuts for the rich by slashing education in their states across the board and really sticking it to the middle class,” Governor Shumlin said.
Follow Logan Churchwell on Twitter @LCChurchwell