HALTOM CITY, Texas — Democrat Wendy Davis promised a more populist and bipartisan state government in Texas as she declared her long-anticipated candidacy for governor Thursday, but she didn't mention abortion rights, the subject that brought her to national attention.
Speaking before a crowd in the hometown where she received her high school diploma, the Fort Worth state senator tried to stake out a middle ground, vowing to represent the working class and improve public education, economic development and health care in Texas.
"Texans don't want to sit back and watch Austin turn into Washington, D.C.," Davis said. "State leaders in power keep forcing people to opposite corners to prepare for a fight, instead of coming together to get things done."
Davis has said her experiences — from being a single teen mother to becoming a successful Harvard-trained lawyer — inform her political views. She said Texas needs to be "a lot less lone and a lot more star."
"Until the families who are burning the candle at both ends can finally make ends meet, we will keep going. Until the amazing health care advances being pioneered in this state reach everyone who needs them, we will keep going," she said to about 1,500 people at the Wiley G. Thomas Coliseum.
Davis then blasted "the current leadership" in Austin, accusing lawmakers of creating a partisan atmosphere and appealing to the right wing of the Republican Party.
Republican Gov. Rick Perry has chosen to not seek re-election. The front-runner for the GOP nomination is Attorney General Greg Abbott.
Davis rose to national prominence in June for her nearly 13-hour filibuster against new abortion restrictions in Texas. Yet on Thursday, the Fort Worth lawmaker did not mention abortion. Instead, she talked about her 2011 filibuster to block passage of the state budget after the Republican majority cut $5 billion for public schools.
Davis' opponents plan to use her support for abortion rights to rally conservative Christian voters next fall. About 40 antiabortion demonstrators marched outside the venue where Davis was speaking Thursday, and Texas Right to Life plans to begin airing an ad over the weekend that calls her an "abortion zealot."
If her defense of abortion rights angered the right, it inspired Democrats, who urged her to run for governor in 2014 and reinvigorate a party that hasn't won statewide office since 1994. .