Later today, as expected, state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) will announce her campaign for governor. With incumbent Rick Perry (R) retiring after four terms, Texas voters will witness an open governor’s campaign for the first time since 1990, when Democrat Ann Richards defeated Republican businessman Clayton Williams.
The 2014 general election looks to match Sen. Davis and three-term Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott who, for years, has been waiting in the wings to run for the state’s top office. Davis attained notoriety over the summer by filibustering a bill that increased abortion restrictions and succeeded in delaying its passage for several weeks.
The GOP has dominated Texas politics ever since George W. Bush unseated Gov. Richards in 1994. Of the 29 statewide offices, Republicans continue to control all of them, in addition to the two US Senate positions, a majority in the congressional delegation, and both houses of the state legislature. Since the Bush gubernatorial re-election effort in 1998, the GOP has typically won the major statewide offices by margins between 12 and 16 points.
But, will the string continue in 2014? With an ever-growing populace – remember, Texas gained four seats in the last reapportionment – and a Hispanic population reaching 37.6 percent of the state’s total population, Lone Star State Democrats claim that the demographic changes are making them more competitive.
Two polls have been conducted, both showing similar patterns. The most recent, the Texas Lyceum Poll (Sept. 6-20; 800 registered Texas voters), gives Abbott only a 29-21 percent lead with a whopping 50 percent undecided/don’t know factor. In early summer, Public Policy Polling (June 28-July 1; 500 registered Texas voters), even before Gov. Perry announced his retirement, tested several candidates against one another. At that time, Abbott led Davis 48-40 percent, holding the same eight-point edge as the Lyceum poll projects, but one where 38 percent more respondents believed they knew enough about the candidates to make a decision.
The fact that the Lyceum poll has a very long sampling window, over two weeks, and derives such a small decided factor especially in comparison to the earlier PPP results, leads to reliability skepticism. The fact that both polls, taken weeks apart, suggests the same separation margin is indicative, irrespective of Lyceum’s methodological flaws. Therefore, it is probable that this gubernatorial campaign has the potential of becoming more competitive than any Texas race since the Bush-Richards campaign of 24 years ago.
Abbott clearly begins with a huge resource advantage, already having $22 million cash-on-hand, but Davis enjoys a new national fundraising base that will produce enough money to run a serious campaign. The race begins in earnest later today.
Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-Milford) is commonly considered an “accidental” congressman, coming to office in 2012 because all others around him imploded. Therefore, the 2014 campaign is likely to be the more competitive race of his career.
Just after Labor Day, the congressman drew his first announced opponent, one from his own Republican Party.
Dave Trott, a wealthy local attorney already backed by many Michigan GOP establishment figures, has quickly passed muster as a serious candidate. Though the campaign financial disclosure deadline is still two weeks away (Oct. 15), Trott stated publicly yesterday that his first report will show receipts exceeding $425,000, an impressive amount in a short time frame.
In contrast, Rep. Bentivolio’s latest report (the period ending June 30) reveals receipts of just over $190,000, but less than $5,000 in the bank. His campaign says the Congressman’s fundraising is improved, but it is unlikely to be as strong as Trott’s.
Clearly, the MI-11 Republican primary challenge is a serious one, indeed.