Davis' personal story front and center for campaign launch

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by MARK WIGGINS / KVUE News and photojournalist ERIN COKER

Bio | Email | Follow: @MarkW_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on October 3, 2013 at 10:24 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 4 at 9:52 AM

AUSTIN -- For State Senator Wendy Davis' supporters, it was a moment long anticipated.

"I am proud to announce my candidacy to be the 48th governor of this great state," Davis said to thunderous applause and chants of "Wendy!"

Davis took the podium inside the Thomas Coliseum in the Fort Worth suburb of Haltom City, speaking on the same stage she walked across 32 years ago for her high school graduation.

It was all part of the story of her journey from struggling single mother to powerful public figure, which took center stage in her 15-minute address Thursday afternoon.

"It wasn't uncommon for me to come home to find my power turned off or that my phone had been disconnected," said Davis. "And there are a lot of people in our state today who can tell similar stories."

Davis laid out her campaign as a "promise" of equal opportunities for education and advancement, as well as a scathing indictment of the current administration under Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX).

"Texans deserve better than failed leaders who dole out favors to friends and cronies behind closed doors," said Davis. She didn't reserve her criticism for the Texas Capitol in Austin alone.

"Texans do not want to sit back and watch Austin turn into Washington, D.C.," said Davis, in a rebuke to both the current gridlock on Capitol Hill and the bitter partisanship of the Texas Legislature.

Davis made no mention of the filibuster against a controversial set of laws restricting abortion rights that rocketed her to national stardom overnight. The only oblique reference came while laying out one of her chief issues, the ongoing fight over education.

"Just two short years ago, failed leaders set out to strip over five billion dollars from our already underfunded public schools. And they were wrong," said Davis. "So I took to the Senate floor determined to block the bill the only way I could, by filibustering."

For Davis supporters, many of whom traveled from as far as El Paso, education is a top concern. Supporters said they were heartened by her fight to restore school funding, and many felt a personal connection to her story.

"Wendy graduated a year ahead of me at Richland High School, where I teach now," said Kelvin Dilks of North Richland Hills. "And she fights for education."

"I just related to her," said educator Mika Petfar of Bedford. "Single woman, working hard, educated, working for children."

But opponents staking out the sidewalk outside the event were focused on the issue that catapulted Davis into the national political vernacular.

"Wendy Davis is very pro-choice, and I'm very pro-life," said Aren Haggard.

"I need your help," Davis told supporters. The new hope of Democrats across the state hopes to mobilize a grassroots effort. Phase 1 seems to be letting her story do much of the talking.

"No matter where you start, no matter how you start," Davis concluded. "That place has nothing to do with how far you can go."

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