Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sen. Wendy Davis

There is likely to be only one competitive Texas Senate race in the November general election.  Sen. Wendy Davis will square off against Rep./Dr. Mark Shelton in Fort Worth’s SD 10.
First the SD 10 numbers:  In 2008, Sen. McCain defeated President Obama 52.1% to 47.1%; Supreme Court Justice Dale Wainwright defeated Sam Houston 50.2% to 47.4%; while Davis defeated incumbent Sen. Kim Brimer 49.9% to 47.5%, with the Libertarian taking 2.6% of the vote.  In 2010, Gov. Perry carried the district 52.7% to 44.6% over Mayor White, and Railroad Commissioner David Porter defeated Jeff Weems 56.3% to 39.7%.  Sen. Davis is the only Democrat who has ever won in SD 10, and she did not break 50%.
With no Libertarian on the ballot in 2012, SD 10 is clearly a marginally Republican district with a 2012 Optimal Republican Voting Strength of 55.2%.  Bryan Eppstein, Rep. Shelton’s powerful consultant, opines that Shelton will win easily.
I see the race as closer and would currently rate it as a toss-up.  Although the District’s Republican numbers favor Shelton, Davis will benefit from being the incumbent.  
Sen. Davis was in Houston the last several days.  Sen. Rodney Ellis organized meet and greets for her with various labor and business groups, including the Greater Houston Partnership.  She will return in two weeks for a day of fundraisers.
I had the opportunity to observe Davis at a couple of these meetings.  Attractive, smart, passionate and yet soft-spoken, she is an excellent campaigner.  She smoothly works the room, remembering people’s names.
She also appears to be the top priority state race for Texas Democrats.  As the twelfth Democrat in the Senate, she exponentially strengthens the eleven vote minority block.  With only eleven votes, it is pretty easy to lose one Democrat.  When there are twelve, it is harder to lose two.
I am impressed with how hard Davis is working.  On paper, SD 10 clearly favors Rep. Shelton, and he is a strong candidate.  However, Republicans underestimate Sen. Davis at their peril.  She is not going down without a fight.