AUSTIN — Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis speaks passionately about her views on abortion and other social issues. She’s a political newcomer, a little known newcomer in a state that, if anything, has been slow to adjust to Democrats.
Davis won less than 10 percent of the vote in this year’s gubernatorial recall election, a result that could have had consequences even without the recall. But it appears the recall resulted in an unexpected shift in party control of the Legislature.
Davis will now chair a new legislative committee charged with “promoting the social, civil and economic welfare of Texans in a way they can best meet those goals.” What could get Davis to step down?
The committee will handle issues from transportation, education, tax policy and environmental protection. It’s a change from Texas’ previous two chamber-level legislative committees.
Among the changes in this year’s legislative session, the Republican-controlled House has eliminated most of Davis’ committee assignments, eliminating the chance of him or her stepping down. The Democrats have retained Davis’ committee assignments.
Texas hasn’t had a Democratic leader in either the House or Senate since Gov. Rick Perry was elected in 2000. Now, he leads the largest party in the Senate, in a state with a Democratic governor.
Davis has been criticized since her campaign for governor failed in 2010 — including over some comments about abortion and other social issues. But she’s now taking a leading role in the Democratic Party. And there are two main arguments over how she should address social issues that could cause trouble with her party’s moderate wing.
The first is how she fits into the state’s new party hierarchy. Davis and Gov. Rick Perry are both Democrats, so she’s likely to be at the center of a new social issues party in the Democratic state.
At least that’s the theory. Texas Democrats are not very successful at building a party around social issues this year. Their best attempt at one came during the 2010 elections, when Gov. Rick Perry became the party’s standard-bearer. But a new party, this one led by an openly abortion-rights-inclined Democrat, didn’t seem as natural at the time as it does now.
The other issue is the question of whether Davis is a champion of abortion rights or the anti-abortion movement during a presidential election year. Davis has come out in favor of exceptions for rape, incest, the life of the mother and the health of the mother.
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