Why Wendy Davis’ Fight For Women May Come Up Short

The Democrat is losing the female vote despite running on women’s rights.


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Wendy Davis and the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, Leticia Van de Putte, were the keynote speakers at Annie’s List’s annual Houston fundraising luncheon. They both talked about numerous issues that separate them from their Republican counterparts, but not surprisingly, with Annie’s List being an organization that supports female political candidates, their focus was on women’s issues.

Van de Putte made the difference crystal clear.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis speaks during an Annie’s List luncheon in Houston
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis speaks during an Annie’s List luncheon in Houston

“It’s clear when you look at the candidates on the Republican statewide ticket and the Democratic ticket,” she said. “Republicans don’t have a single woman. Nada, zip, zero. Not one woman. Not in their top executive positions.”

Of course, ever since Wendy Davis rose to stardom among Democrats with her filibuster against an abortion restriction law in the last state Legislative session, a lot of her focus has been on women’s issues.

She made that clear again when she talked about equal pay for women and the strides prominent Texas women have made in the past.

“And last summer, we learned the constitutionally protected rights for women to be trusted with their own health care decisions is clearly a battle that is far from over,” Davis said. “But unfortunately, my opponent, Greg Abbott, not only refuses to join in that fight, he’s fighting actively on the opposite side.”

Despite Davis and Van de Putte’s efforts, a recent poll by Public Policy Polling found that even among Texas women, the Democratic ticket lags behind the Republican candidates.

Davis trails Abbott by eight percentage points among women and Van de Putte is losing the female vote to David Dewhurst and Dan Patrick by 16 percent and 13 percent respectively.

Brandon Rottinghaus, a political scientist at the University of Houston, said one problem for the Democrats is that suburban women tend to be less supportive of abortion rights.

Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor Leticia Van de Putte speaks during the luncheon
Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor Leticia Van de Putte speaks during the luncheon

“It’s also the case that in some particular parts of Obamacare that Democratic women are favorable towards it but that all women are less favorable towards it,” Rottinghaus said. “And so Wendy Davis effectively is on the wrong side on some of these issues that in principle may help her with women, but it looks like actually with respect to Texas women, especially suburban Texas women, may actually hurt her.”

On the other hand, Rottinghaus said, women are more likely to identify as moderate than men are, and so aiming toward the political center may help Davis.

“I think she has run a campaign like that,” he said. “I mean, she has taken the middle ground on certain positions. She has walked back her stance on abortion. She has moderated her stance on gun control. And so there is a sort of sense that she is able to really strike a middle position with respect to the ideology in the state.”  

But Rottinghaus also said it’s an uphill battle for Davis, and the Democrats may face a high-profile loss in November.

At the same time, he said, just having her as a candidate this year could help the party for future elections in Texas.

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Florian Martin

Florian Martin

Business Reporter

Florian Martin is the News 88.7 business reporter and also covers criminal justice, guns and shootings.Florian's stories can frequently be heard on other public radio stations throughout Texas and on NPR nationwide. Some of them have earned him awards from Texas AP Broadcasters, the Houston Press Club, National Association of...

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