Wilting across Texas
When the going gets tough, a candidate for governor sues
Politics is a contact sport, and Texas Democrats have no bench. Republicans hold all 27 statewide elective offices, including judgeships. Democrats haven’t seen the inside of the governor’s mansion since a fatal campaign gaffe by the Republican candidate nearly a quarter-century ago sent Ann Richards to take up residence for a single term.
After so long in the wilderness, it was inevitable that Democrats in Texas would fall head over Prada heels for fashionista Wendy Davis. The state senator parlayed fawning national media coverage of her failed 12-hour filibuster of restrictions on abortion in June into a bid for governor next year.
Her candidacy inspires Democrats with visions of turning deep-red Texas blue. Vogue magazine, in a profile of the two-term Fort Worth Democrat, set a more modest goal for the pol it describes as an “overnight sensation” with “Barbie-doll looks.” Vogue asks: “Could Texas turn purple — and is Davis the one to take it there?”
It’s not clear she’ll be able to make it that far without a breakdown, or at least a lawsuit. Erick Erickson, on his conservative Red State website, reports that Mrs. Davis sued the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for defamation after she lost a 1996 election for the Fort Worth City Council, claiming that unflattering editorials about her position on expanding the zoo were written with “malicious intent to defame Davis.” There was a conspiracy, she said, “to direct criticism at Davis on the editorial page in an effort to prevent Davis from being elected.” This effort, which included an endorsement of her opponent, caused her to “suffer damages to her mental health.”
She may have been driven crazy, but she should know better. If the press can’t poke fun at pompous politicians, who can? If a politician’s self-esteem suffers he (or she) should lie down until he (or she) feels better. If Mrs. Davis thinks anyone who disagrees with her has an opinion that goes “beyond all possible bounds of decency, as to be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community,” she’s clearly not ready for prime time.
A trial judge found her lawsuit to be a bit over the top and tossed it out. The Texas Court of Appeals and the Texas Supreme Court rejected the pleas from Mrs. Davis to take up the case.
Wilting at the sight of a few barbed words hardly befits a governor, or even a candidate for governor. “Don’t mess with Texas” means standing up for the state, not running to a therapist or a lawyer at the first sound of the guns. Surely a thin skin is no qualification for any public office in a state where they cherish the memory of the Alamo, Audie Murphy and Hood’s Texas Brigade.
A Public Policy Polling survey Tuesday found Mrs. Davis trailing her likely Republican opponent, state Attorney General Greg Abbott, 50 percent to 35 percent. That’s up from the 8-point lead Mr. Abbott had in July. Worse yet for Mrs. Davis, Public Policy Polling, a Democrat-leaning firm, found her favorability rating at a net negative 6 points.
Winning in Texas will be a tall order for the fivefoot-four lady in a state where President Obama carried just 26 of the 254 counties last year. One Texas pol, Susan Combs, the Republican comptroller of public accounts, says tartly that Wendy Davis’ 15 minutes of fame are just about over. “That’s so last week.”