Now she is battling to revive a seemingly stalled campaign to
become the first Democratic Texas governor in more than 20 years by
winning over frustrated Republicans and motivating enough voters who
would otherwise spend election day at home to find a few minutes to
State Senator Davis, 51, came into the Texas Democratic convention
in Dallas over the weekend with surveys showing her 10-13 percent
points behind the Republican nominee, Attorney General Greg Abbott,
56, and failing to close ground.
Davis, with an inspiring life story going from a single mother in a
trailer park to a Harvard Law School graduate, has portrayed Abbott
as part of a 'good old boys' network more interested in enriching
each other than helping voters.
"I'm running because there's a moderate majority that's being
ignored - commonsense, practical, hardworking Texans whose voices
are being drowned out by insiders in Greg Abbott's party, and it
needs to stop," she told the convention on Friday.
But as Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University
in Houston, said: "Texas is difficult terrain for any Democrat, let
alone a Democrat who rose to prominence on an issue such as abortion
that is associated with the liberal wing of the Democratic Party."
Davis, who this month reshuffled campaign brass, has also taken hits
when it was found she embellished parts of her biography.
Despite this, she remains a prominent candidate who can raise funds
among major donors in Hollywood and Washington, D.C.
For her staunchest supporters, the key to victory rests with Texans
being targeted in one of the largest, state-wide grassroots
campaigns in U.S. political history.
Alumni from President Barack Obama's 2012 campaign quietly have
built a Democratic political army in Texas, where gun-rights
advocates brandish semi-automatic rifles on city streets and pickup
trucks bear "SECEDE" bumper stickers.
The group called Battleground Texas, started about a year and a half
ago, has enlisted about 20,000 volunteers who have made 2 million
phone calls and house visits among voters.
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"People are hungry. They see the opportunity and they want to take
it," said Jenn Brown, the group's executive director.
In a state
as large as Texas, adding a few percentage points with groups that
typically favor Democrats but have not turned out in high numbers
could mean all the difference.
According to a poll by survey group Latino Decisions, 39 percent of
eligible Hispanics cast ballots in the November 2012 election in
Texas, while 61 percent stayed home. The numbers were almost
reversed for non-Hispanic whites.
By 2030 Latinos, who typically support Democrats, will be the
majority in Texas and could turn the state blue. Texas could then
join populous California and New York among Democratic strongholds,
with the three states securing the party nearly half the electoral
votes needed to win the White House.
Democrats have also become emboldened by the strength of U.S.
Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and his no-compromise tea party allies,
seeing them as driving moderate Republicans into their tent and
antagonizing Hispanic voters with their hardline stance on
"We have seen Republicans consistently move further to the right and
as they are excluding people from the promise of Texas, our job is
to speed up those changes," said Will Hailer, executive director of
the Texas Democratic Party.
(Additional reporting by Marice Richter; Editing by Tom Heneghan)
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