Political fortunes rise and fall following Texas abortion fight


by MARK WIGGINS / KVUE News and photojournalist SCOTT MCKENNEY

Bio | Email | Follow: @MarkW_KVUE


Posted on July 22, 2013 at 6:35 PM

AUSTIN -- The image of her pink and green sneakers was broadcast around the nation. 
For the Fort Worth Democrat whose day-long filibuster helped block sweeping new abortion regulations as the first special session of the 83rd Texas Legislature came to an end, it was a defining moment. 
"Politically, Wendy Davis is now a national leader," said Democratic political consultant Jason Stanford. Stanford says for Democrats, many hopes now hang on what Davis does next. Her campaign raised nearly a million dollars following the filibuster and drew a legion of enthusiastic supporters to the Texas Capitol. 
"She has a nationwide funding base," said Stanford. "She is the most popular Democrat and the third most popular politician in Texas. She's a clear winner."
"State Senator Wendy Davis was a short-term winner in the sense that she was able to raise a million dollars, raise her name ID, become a national figure," said Republican consultant Matt Mackowiak. "I'm not sure that the notoriety that she gained on that particular issue, the abortion issue will help her statewide in Texas. I still think her position is a minority view in Texas."
After a chaotic crowd in the Senate gallery prevented a final vote on Senate Bill 5, many privately and publicly criticized the Senate President, Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. Yet less than two weeks later, Dewhurst would preside over the final passage of the identical House Bill 2 in a second special session called by Republican Gov. Rick Perry. 
The bill's speedy passage landed Dewhurst the endorsement of many anti-abortion groups, and a campaign video released shortly afterward declared Dewhurst the "Defender of the Pre-Born."
"Despite the political endorsements he's gotten since then, I think he ends up a bit weaker," said Stanford.
"He was a loser initially, and I think at the end became, if not a winner, then certainly was able to overcome what was probably going to be a loss," said Mackowiak, explaining Dewhurst can resume his bid for reelection in the Republican primary with the advantage of being directly responsible for the bill's success.
"I think you're going to have to call Governor Rick Perry a winner," Mackowiak added. "He demonstrated that he was committed to this pro-life issue. He said he would call as many special sessions as it required, and so pro-life groups are very thankful for that."
"It's a sort of recent success, it's a recent achievement that he can point to and he can talk about on the campaign trail if he chooses to run for president," said Mackowiak. "But even apart from whether he's running for president or not, I think he deeply believes in this. He's a strong Christian. He believes in defending life, defending the unborn."
So what about the state political parties?
Stanford says the debate has given Democrats new life. 
"Now they're engaged, now they're mad and now they have a hero," said Stanford. "All they need is a war." 
"I don't think the fact that Republicans didn't raise money the way Democrats did on the life issue tells us anything about where the public is in Texas on that issue," said Mackowiak, who maintains more Texans support the legislation.
What's clear is both sides will have plenty to talk about this campaign season. 


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