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What the Filibuster Means

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The big news from yesterday, of course, was the Wendy Davis filibuster. But the obvious question about whether the Democrats have a candidate in Davis who has the potential to break the party’s long losing streak in statewide races is hard to answer. Davis represents the Republicans’ worst nightmare – a smart, attractive woman; a talented lawyer (from Harvard, no less); and a personality with pizzazz – particularly at a time when the GOP continues to put forward drab male candidates who have been around forever.In a single, magical night, she outgrew the Senate and became a national figure. Davis’s filibuster is the modern equivalent of Ann Richards’ Democratic convention keynote, the moment when a star was born. I haven’t seen that kind of energy in the Capitol for a long time. Of course, the Republicans certainly cooperated; the optics were terrible: the innocent heroine surrounded by big angry men who resorted to dirty tricks to stop the filibuster.

What lies ahead? First and foremost, she has to raise a lot of money. She has already proven that she is a prodigious fundraiser whose contribution list reads like a who’s who of the Fort Worth business establishment; the issue now for Democrats is whether their party has the infrastructure and the political talent to mount a statewide race. The party is going to have to find a way to boost turnout. As most readers know, Battleground Texas is at work in the state, organizing and recruiting voters and grass roots volunteers. I have always been skeptical of groups that parachute into Texas, and the Republicans have made sport of deprecating Battleground, especially Perry, but this time they may be for real.

One of the problems for Republicans is that the Senate has suffered a severe talent drain in recent years. The first-year class consisted of several conservatives who came over from the House and, with the exception of Charles Schwertner, showed little talent for politics. Hancock, Taylor, Paxton all acted like House members on vacation, strutting around the floor. Paxton pulled his chair up to Davis’s desk in an effort to intimidate her into making a mistake during the filibuster that might take her off the floor. As the saying goes, the operation was successful, but the patient died – and the patient wasn’t Davis. It was David Dewhurst.

Undaunted, Perry has called a special session for July 1. The agenda is familiar: abortion, transportation, juvenile justice. We’ll see if the Republicans have learned anything since the last adjournment.

AP Photo | Eric Gay

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