Maybe it’s time for Wendy Davis to finally hang up her pink running shoes.
Davis’s loss to incumbent GOP Rep. Chip Roy in the race for Texas’s 21st congressional district marks the second time that piles of cash and national media attention couldn’t win her a seat in Texas, even in a district with suburbs shifting blue.
Davis is the former state senator who first garnered national fame in 2013 for her 13-hour filibuster of a bill on regulating state abortion clinics while donning pink Mizuno sneakers, and then going on to lose the Texas gubernatorial race to Republican Greg Abbott by a crushing 20 points in 2014. In 2015 and 2016, Davis traveled the country campaigning for Hillary Clinton, who of course, also lost.
Davis’s loss this time around does not just speak to her flaws as a candidate, but exemplifies how Democrats set millions of dollars on fire every election cycle supporting pro-abortion candidates in conservative states. Blinded by constant talk of an ever-elusive Blue Wave coming for Texas, out-of-state Democrats and progressive celebrities write huge checks and hold fundraisers for candidates who are anything but moderate, especially on abortion.
Davis was a successful fundraiser throughout her gubernatorial campaign, raking in more than $40 million and a star-studded list of donors including Tom Hanks, Carrie Fisher, Willie Nelson, Jennifer Garner, Barbara Streisand, and Steven Spielberg. Similarly, more than $8 million was poured into her congressional campaign, nearly double the amount Roy raised. She was also chosen by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee as part of their “Red to Blue” program, which directs resources, guidance, and donors to select candidates in competitive districts.
Davis had media attention too. State and national media were not just optimistic about Democrats’ 2020 chances of flipping Texas blue up and down the ballot, but allotted many inches to Davis specifically, as they did with other long-shot candidates like Amy McGrath in Kentucky and M.J. Hegar running for U.S. Senate in Texas. “Can the Woman in Pink Tennis Shoes Help Turn Texas Blue?” asked an Atlantic article. “Wendy Davis Still Has Her Famous Pink Filibuster Sneakers Ready to Go,” reads an October 2020 profile of Davis in Elle Magazine. “Wendy Davis Is a Feminist Icon. Chip Roy Is a Ted Cruz Protégé,” said Texas Monthly.
Davis is only a known commodity because of her radical pro-abortion stand, figuratively and literally, and it’s the primary reason the Democratic Party and their celebrity backers were swift to write checks to her campaign. Nothing excites Hollywood more than “reproductive justice” in red states. Just look at the celebrity mobilization against Georgia’s heartbeat bill last year.
Despite Davis’s popularity among the Planned Parenthood types, abortion is not even listed as an issue on her congressional campaign website. Her bio only gives one nod to her Texas Senate claim to fame, saying she stood “to fight for Texas women’s healthcare.” In a move that was not lost on any voters, she had to downplay her career-defining issue that made her millions, as she campaigned in the red district the encompasses that small towns and suburbs surrounding San Antonio and Austin. Even with that attempt at appearing moderate, she still lost.
It’s undeniable that historically red states like Georgia and Texas are shifting blue, but as Democrats admitted on a House caucus conference call Thursday, they will continue to lose supposedly winnable seats as long as the party runs on Medicare for All, Defund the Police, and socialized medicine.
They should add the party’s push for radical abortion laws to that list. It will be a challenge to explain to the Democratic National Committee’s loudest voices that no matter how much candidates spend on “digital,” like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez suggests, that late-term and taxpayer-funded abortions are not a message to win over the Texas suburban women and Latino voters Democrats are courting.
There are folks running around on TV blaming progressivism for Dem underperformance.
I was curious, so I decided to open the hood on struggling campaigns of candidates who are blaming progressives for their problems.
Almost all had awful execution on digital. DURING A PANDEMIC.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) November 6, 2020
Davis may have intentionally avoided campaigning on abortion, but removing the issue her from brand was always going to be an impossible task. And in a move that probably made Texas Democrats cringe, the media said the quiet part loud when they made sure voters could never forget why Davis deserved all the praise and attention for her pink shoes.
Although the media’s post-2020 analysis won’t openly admit it, the Democratic Party is more divided than ever. As the DNC begins to plan for the next election, they should consider the TX-21 race and their failed abortion Barbie a lesson to learn from.