Democratic governor candidate Wendy Davis has jabbed for months at her Republican rival, Atty. Gen. Greg Abbott, for things like defending in court the Texas Legislature’s slashing of school spending.

He has ignored her. With $20 million-plus squirreled away before Davis even announced, his political gurus think no one’s paying attention. They don’t want a fight that could swing the spotlight to her.

But the Fort Worth senator, who’s giving up her Senate seat to run for governor, got the Abbott team’s attention when she claimed she raised more money in the last half of 2013 than he did ––  $12.2 million to his $11.5 million.


Abbott’s campaign dropped its radio silence, accusing Davis of  “fuzzy math.” That is, not wrong enough to be incorrect. More about that in a minute.

Davis is engaged in the seriously uphill task of trying to become the first Democrat to win a statewide race in Texas since 1994. She’s doing it the hard way, because the old Texas Democratic Party was based around candidates more than an effective, self-supporting party organization.

In the one-party Democratic days half a century ago, the battles were intraparty dogfights in the Democratic primary, based on candidates’ own organizations, name identification, and popularity.

If the Democratic Party needed to raise money, it did it by asking candidates –– particularly its statewide incumbents –– to share their own campaign swag.

But Republicans went from having just two statewide elected officials in 1987 to all of them in 1999. Presidential candidates of both major parties passed up competing in rapidly Republican-trending Texas, featuring the Bush Dynasty.

So the Democrats no longer had the money or organizational manpower of Democratic presidential campaigns or the fund-raising leverage of incumbent statewide officeholders.

Now Davis hopes to help bring a vigorous Democratic Party out of the ashes –– with her campaign as the rallying point.

There are millions of disgruntled Democrats tired of being run over. But the challenge for Democrats is to identify folks who share their beliefs but seldom if ever vote, and then see that they do.

Back to the fund-raising math. How “fuzzy” is it?

Davis’ campaign got headlines by hinting at raising more than $10 million between July and December.

On Jan. 14, she said her report would show she’d raised $12.2 million. That topped Abbott’s $11.5 million the next day.

The Abbott campaign pointed out that Davis claimed not just her own income of $8.7 million, but added $3.5 million from the “Texas Victory Committee.”

That’s a joint fund-raising and organizational effort between her campaign and the Democrats’ “Battleground Texas,” a party-building effort. It’s headed by some of the same field operatives who oversaw President Barack Obama’s scorched-earth voter turnout operations in swing states in 2008 and again in 2012.

Matt Angle of the Lone Star Project, a progressive Democratic group, and a strong supporter of Davis, said the addition is justified. Every dollar raised for the joint operation is a dollar aimed at electing her governor, Angle said.

Davis’ campaign and Battleground Texas “understand that infrastructure doesn’t build itself,” Angle said. Battleground Texas can work on the organization, and Davis can help raise the money to get it done.

The Republicans countered that if money being spent on other GOP campaigns was added to Abbott’s total, it would exceed hers by a few million –– plus all that money he already had in the bank.

But Davis and the Democrats hope that with the help and experience of Battleground Texas, avid grassroots support, and lots of outside money, they can exceed the $40 million Angle says is needed to be competitive and to mount a closer-than-expected battle.

Let’s compare Texas turnout figures from the 2010 off-year governor’s election and the 2012 presidential election –– which had 60 percent more voters.

What if Davis and the Democrats could muster a presidential-year turnout, while Abbott and the Republicans get the normal off-year turnout?

Unlikely. But if Abbott gets the same total vote in 2014 that he got in winning re-election as attorney general with 64 percent in 2010, and Davis gets the same vote Barack Obama did in losing Texas with 41.4 percent in 2012, she’d win by more than 150,000 votes.

Never happen. Apples and oranges.

But interesting to think about.

Veteran Texas journalist Dave McNeely can be reached at


  1. Nice reporting Dave, probably the most even analysis on this topic across most papers in Texas. As a more conservative voter, I am glad Democrats and Wendy Davis are making a serious effort in this race. It will make our candidate better and prove to be a better outcome. The reality is that conservative republicans are an unstoppable force in Texas, in spite of a few outlier counties. When Wendy Davis and democrats come out swinging 11 months in advance, it rousts the slow-moving republican machine into action. They probably needed 11 months of notice to get into gear, so thank you Wendy!

  2. Uh, everything you need to know about Republican opposition to Wendy Davis is in the Letters to the Editor section of the FWST today. And I quote:

    “There is a theme here. A jury of 10 women and two men sentenced a DWI driver to probation in the death of his friend. A female judge sentenced a 16-year-old to probation in a DWI crash that killed four. Thousands of women re-elected the worst president this nation has ever had. A female secretary of state quits her job, and leaves the Middle East in turmoil. She cannot look after her husband, but wants to run the country. A female politician whose slogan is ‘Stand for Wendy’ is running against a proven state attorney general (who is in a wheelchair) for governor. Gentlemen, you have to vote to save your state and country.”

    anyone else sick of Republican entitlement, chauvinism and ignorance?

  3. I knew before I picked up this week’s issue of FWW that it would contain a plug for Wendy Davis. Any why not? She’s been through a week of withering criticism after a Dallas Morning News story concluded that Davis’ background narrative contains fabrications and omits relevant facts. The controversy has dominated news coverage for the past week.

    So FWW runs a story suggesting that Wendy Davis’ campaign is making Greg Abbott sweat? Nice try.

    • The controversy has dominated news coverage over the past week, and everyone to the left of the useful idiots at Fox News has concluded that DMN’s story is as weak as water. So Wendy Davis got some financial assistance from her second husband. Oooh, somebody call Olivia Pope! That story was clearly meant to pander to knuckle-dragging misogynists who think that any woman who marries a man above her station is a gold-digger. Those people weren’t going to vote for her anyway.

      But like you said, nice try.

      • Same Liberal song, different verse. If you criticize Obama you’re a racist. If you criticize Wendy Davis you’re a misogynist. If you criticize any Lib, you’re a knuckle-dragger. Name-calling triumphs and facts become irrelevant. Brilliant!

        • The thing simply is Stoutimore, that Peckerwoods are going to be Peckerwoods. What else can they be? Hammer-heads are going to be hammer-heads…what’s new here?

          Facts are facts. Disgusting bunk is disgusting bunk. Everyone I’ve talked to, I mean thats not heading west to the Rattlesnake Hunt, is laughing at the Baggers and slapping their leg. Keep it up. Please, please, please.

        • This is true!

          Against Obama: You are a racist
          Pro-Capitalism: You are a greedy “white” business man (even if you aren’t white or a man)
          Pro-Life: It isn’t about abortion its about women’s “rights” sure that is why the fetuses have no “rights” to live
          Anti-Drugs: You are a religious freak
          Pro-Guns: You are a terrorist

    • one thing about conservatives and Republicans here in Texas… they are consistent. Texas remains the laughingstock of the nation.

      • Which of course explains the “exodus” from the “non laughing stock overtaxed and under represented” parts of the nation to Texas recently.
        (Population in Texas has expanded compared to other parts of the country-where it has declined) If you want 19% sales tax go west to California…

      • “Texas remains the laughingstock of the nation” yeah right give me a break.
        -Texas has surpassed Cali in Tech exports, TX is now the largest tech exporter in the USA
        -For the 12th year in a row Texas is the largest exporter in the USA
        -Texas has a stable/booming economy
        -Texas has a booming industry
        -Texas has booming business
        -Texas is having a population boom (this is because of people like you who keep moving to a “poor, cheap state” that has “poor education” and considers women “second class citizens” <- that was sarcasm)
        -Texas is creating the most jobs in the USA (for all classes low wealth-high wealth jobs)

        So just because Texas isn't corrupt and isn't brainwashing everyone into paying more taxes doesn't mean that it is the laughingstock of the nation.

        I mean just look at Detroit, a city that is prospering because of the Democrats 🙂

  4. In 2012 Texas only managed to get 26% of its registered voters to the polls. Does anyone seriously believe the GOP will manage to motivate any more voters to get out this year? If there is, by some miracle, a 50% turnout, the Texas GOP will take it in the chops this November. It’s been a long time since Democrats smelled blood in Texas politics, and they are danged thirsty.