WASHINGTON -- Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) sounded a lot like a gubernatorial candidate in her speech at the National Press Club on Monday, touting her ability to reach across the aisle and discussing everything from education policy to women's rights to the infrastructure and economy of Texas.
But she stopped short of announcing her candidacy for governor, saying only that she is "working very hard to decide" which office she will run for in 2014.
"I do think that in Texas, people feel like we need a change from the very fractured, very partisan leadership that we've seen in our state governor right now," Davis said at the fundraiser luncheon. "I can say with absolute certainty that I will run for one of two offices -- either my state senate seat, or the governor's."
Davis' political star began to rise in June when she staged an 11-hour-plus filibuster of a sweeping anti-abortion bill and forced Gov. Rick Perry (R) to call a second special legislative session in order to pass it. Opponents of the bill said it would likely shut down most of the abortion clinics in the state by requiring those clinics to undergo extensive and costly renovations to become ambulatory surgical centers.
Thousands of people flooded the state capitol to support Davis, sent her their personal stories to read during her filibuster, watched the action via live stream and tweeted their support for her with the hashtag #standwithwendy. Even President Obama took notice of Davis' move, tweeting, “Something special is happening in Austin tonight.”
Since the filibuster, Davis has met with several Democrats in Congress and has spoken at a number of fundraisers in Washington, D.C., sparking rumors that she is planning to run for higher office. But she has remained coy about her future plans.
On Monday, the 50-year-old Ft. Worth lawmaker shared the details of her own unlikely success story and explained why she wants to be an advocate for low-income Texans, women and minorities. Davis said her mother had a sixth grade education and raised four children on her own.
"By the time I was 19, I was already married, divorced and a single mother myself, living in poverty and on my way to facing the same challenges and hardships my own mother faced," Davis said. "Anyone who believes everything is bigger in Texas never saw the trailer my daughter and I lived in."
Davis enrolled in Texas Christian University with the help of academic and financial-need scholarships, and later went on to graduate from Harvard Law School. She said her success story inspired her first filibuster in June 2011, when she took a stand against a $5.4 billion budget cut to public schools.
"I've seen firsthand that education is a pathway out of poverty," she said.
As a state senator, Davis has also advocated for a strong water and transportation infrastructure; established a veterans' court to prioritize treatment and counseling; and worked with Republicans to pass bipartisan legislation for equal pay for women, which Perry later vetoed.
Davis has a long uphill battle ahead of her if she plans to run for governor in a solidly red state, but she insinuated that she believes Texans can look beyond party lines. "For all the rhetoric about big government or small government, I think that the majority of Texans just want to see good government," she said.