Top Demos from 2014 may run in 2020


It is an odd set of circumstances. But it’s possible that the two former Democratic state senators – Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte -- who were their party’s candidates for the top two state offices in 2014 may be running for congress next year.

Davis, 56, who represented Fort Worth in the Senate, now lives in Central Austin. She is considering running in Congressional District 21. 

It takes in parts of Austin and San Antonio, and all of six Hill Country counties to the west. It is held by freshman Republican U. S. Rep. Chip Roy, 46, of Hays County, south of Austin.

Roy served as a top aide to U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, former Gov. Rick Perry, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, and Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton before winning the race to replace retiring 30-year incumbent Republican Lamar Smith.

Davis, whose senate filibuster against a stringent anti-abortion bill in 2013 skyrocketed her to national prominence, that in turn triggered her run for governor, had been considering another statewide race – against Texas’ senior U. S. Senator Cornyn, whose six-year term is up in 2020.

The Texas Democratic Party, in fact, has mounted a fundraising effort to target Cornyn’s re-election.

“Big news!” the message from party executive director Manny Garcia says. 

“We just launched our groundbreaking, multi-million-dollar Cornyn War Room to defeat Republican John Cornyn.”

The goal of turning Texas from reliably Red to at least past Purple, has been a Texas Democratic goal for decades. 

And the National Democratic Committee is interested in putting in money and effort to make Texas a swing state.

Plus, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has targeted half a dozen Republican congressional districts, including Roy’s 21st.

Roy in 2018 managed to stave off a challenge from Democrat Joseph Kopser, with a 2.6 percent margin.

On a podcast Friday called “The Rabble: TX Politics for the Unruly Mob,” Davis said Kopser had made a valiant run, but says he won’t run for any office in 2020.

“Joseph Kopser gave a valiant effort, worked so, so hard and came very, very close,” Davis said. “The question is, can we do it for 2020? I’m trying to take a pragmatic look at it. I want to make sure we have the ability to win it, and I believe we do. And I want to believe I’m the right person to do that.”

Davis, who lost by just over 20 percent to Abbott in 2014, has formed and ramrodded a group called “Deeds Not Words,” aimed at encouraging younger women to become politically active. She voiced a common complaint among Democrats in Texas.  

“We’re a non-voting blue state,” she said. “Our greatest challenge is that we don’t believe that about ourselves. And if we don’t believe, we won’t show up.”

Davis had been toying with the idea of opposing Sen. Cornyn’s re-election next year. But she said on the podcast that she’d support San Antonio U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro if he follows through on talk he may challenge Cornyn.

“If we can have someone of his passion and caliber and deep understanding of these issues at the top of our ticket,” Davis said, “it can not only inspire those of us who are non-Hispanic, but can coalesce a Latino voter who’s been staying home because they haven’t really been of belief yet that their vote can matter.”

If Castro indeed decided to pass up running for another House term in his heavily Democratic District 20 in central and western San Antonio and Bexar County to seek promotion to the senate, Van de Putte indicated that could well be the trigger for her congressional candidacy.

After all, despite losing by just over 19 points to Republican Dan Patrick in the 2014 lieutenant governor race, Van de Putte could have stayed in the Texas Senate. Unlike Davis, she wasn’t up for re-election in 2014, and so could run for lieutenant governor without sacrificing her senate seat.

But she had lots of invitations to come back home and run for mayor – so in 2015, she did, and resigned her senate seat. She led the first election, but narrowly lost the runoff. 

She has probably been hankering to get back in the political fray, and may well consider the 20th District just right for her.

Meanwhile, Chip Roy, no shrinking violet, didn’t seem terrified about the possibility of Davis running.

“Wendy Davis and her radical left Hollywood views are out-of-step with the Texas Hill Country values I am proud to represent,” Roy tweeted Friday. 

“But if she wants to spend a lot of Democrat money o run, we’ll see her on the campaign trail.”

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