In one of the best political movies ever, “The Candidate,” a starry-eyed do-gooder named Bill McKay, played by Robert Redford, is persuaded by a cynical campaign manager, Marvin Lucas, played by Peter Boyle, to run for California governor even though the contest is hopeless. “You’re free, McKay,” says Lucas. “You have a chance to say what you want.” His promise is sealed with a contract scribbled on the inside cover of a matchbook which Lucas hands to McKay. He opens it. “You lose.” Maybe someone should give Wendy Davis such a matchbook cover, even though she is the flavor of the month among Democratic politicos who see her as their best chance to take over the arson-challenged Governor’s Mansion.
By now we all know her rags-to-pink-sneakers story. Married at 18, divorced with a baby and living in a trailer park by 19. She worked before and after classes while attending Tarrant County Community College. Davis received a scholarship to TCU where she graduated tops in her class and then graduated from Harvard Law School with honors. Returning to Cow Town, Davis worked as a lawyer then served nine years on the Fort Worth City Council. In 2008 she was elected to the Texas Senate, where this summer she conducted an 11-hour filibuster against Senate Bill 5, a draconian abortion bill.
That 11 hours brought this obscure lawmaker to national attention. Now the Dems want her to run for governor, and it’s hard to beat a resume like that, except for several reasons. First and foremost: on the ballot she would have a D-for-Democrat by her name, which in Texas these days is akin to having a scarlet A on your chest. Speaking of chests, her war chest is growing, but she would probably face our current Attorney General, Greg Abbott, who already has a $20 million campaign fund and has yet to mount an all-out pocket-picking drive among Texas GOP donors who have very, very deep pockets.
Davis’ run for governor means Karl Rove will spring into action. Indeed, already the mud slinging has begun, as GOPers have started calling her Abortion Barbie and Retard Barbie. (Attorney General Abbott sent a thank you note to the author of that last title for his cleverness.) Rove will start trotting out dirty little secrets such as she was born in Rhode Island, which is worse than Canada, and it wasn’t until she was 11 that she came to Texas. Then there are her links to the liberal media: She began working at age 14 selling newspaper subscriptions to The Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Need I say more?
OK, I will. As a teenager she helped support her mother, Virginia, who had a sixth-grade education, four children and no child support. The mother worked at an ice cream shop. Wendy got a job in an Orange Julius (as in Iscariot) in a shopping-mall food court and later waitressed at a restaurant, no doubt demanding tips. Those pink sneakers were probably made by some 13-year-old in Bangladesh earning a dollar a day. It gets worse. She has been married and divorced twice. “What ever happened to family values?” as Newt Gingrich’s third wife no doubt told Rush Limbaugh’s fourth wife. And her second husband was named — get this — Jeff Davis. Tell that to the next NAACP rally. And that long, blonde hair. Who would want a governor with great hair? OK, forget that one. Anyway, this is a wannabe governor’s resume?
But the overwhelming disadvantage is she would have that D by her name. She clings on to her Fort Worth District 10 despite GOP efforts to have her gerrymandered out of office. She won re-election last November with a narrow 51.11 percent of the vote. and outpolled President Obama by 15,000 votes. Mitt Romney won that district by 8 points. Now she would be running state-wide during the Dark Ages for Democrats, and to think they ran the Lone Star State longer than the PRI ran Mexico or the Communist Party governed the Soviet Union. But the last time Democrats won a major statewide race in Texas was back in 1990 when Ann Richards was elected governor. That was before some of our voters were born. The 2010 Democratic nominee for governor, former Houston Mayor Bill White, pulled only 42 percent. In 2012, Obama lost Texas by 16 points. Could there be a connection between that Obama rejection and the fact that, when NASA doled out four retired space shuttles, Space City didn’t get one? Nah.
To make any kind of showing, she needs lots of money, but in the last go-round Texas Democrats were so confident of their own candidates that they gave three-quarters of their campaign donations to out-of-state candidates. If Davis runs, you and I must be ready to get our snouts in the trough. Abbott must spend that $20 million plus, and Dems nationally are talking about spending $40 million on the race if early polls show promise. Get those bumper stickers printed. Buy stock in companies that have TV stations in Texas because about 80 percent of campaign funds go to TV ads. Buy a catering company to feed all those hungry volunteers. Millions of campaign dollars may be spent in Texas over the next year on those two campaigns. We deserve our share.
Another problem: The organization of the Texas Democratic Party makes black Friday at a Wal-Mart look like the halftime show by the Texas Aggie Band. They have no leadership, no organization, no funds, no other viable candidates, which is why they want Davis’s name on the ballot. So we can predict the outcome of any Abbot-Davis fight for the governorship. But what do I know? I picked Poland over Germany.
Oh, as to the outcome of “The Candidate,” that underdog and under-funded do-gooder won, leading him to ask his campaign manager, “What do we do now?” Maybe buy new pink sneakers.