A day after a controversial abortion bill was defeated in epic fashion, Texas Governor Rick Perry has brought it back to life, calling for a new special session of the Texas legislature in order to reconsider it. The bill will be on the agenda when the State Legislature reconvenes on July 1, only this time, Wendy Davis and her fellow liberals will have a much tougher time stopping it from becoming law.
The bill — which bans all abortions after 20 weeks or pregnancy and enacts tough new restrictions on clinics — was defeated when time ran out the last special session, thanks mostly to Davis and her 13-hour-long filibuster on Tuesday. (By law, special sessions must end after 30 days and may only address specific agenda items.) Opponents had managed to keep the bill off the floor during the regular legislative session earlier in the year, but the unique rules of the special session allowed it to come to vote.
It's highly unlikely that Democrats will be able to defeat the bill entirely this time, but this next round of fighting will be more about setting the stage for a larger future battle between Perry and Davis. It has been speculated for years that the State Senator from Fort Worth might be a future candidate for governor and she's made no effort to shut that talk down. While appearing on MSNBC's "All In With Chris Hayes" last night, Davis said she "would be lying if I told you I did not have aspirations."
Both she and Perry are up for re-election in 2014, and after her performance this week she may never have a better opportunity to step up to statewide office. (She might actually have a better shot than if she simply ran for Senate again, since her last two races were very close and Republicans are likely to target her seat.) Not only has she created a new national (and international) profile that will be able to draw in huge donations and powerful friends, she managed to make her cause about more than just abortion, but also about the heavy-handed tactics and outsized power of the state's Republicans. She is the cause to fight for now.
Then there's Perry, who was looking so strong two years ago that he decided to give the Presidency a shot — and then flamed out miserably. His flaws as a politician were exposed for the whole world, and the liberals who would like to see him defeated will definitely smell blood in the water now that they've found a worthy opponent for him. They've already seized on the fact that he announced the special session on the grounds that "In Texas, we value all life," on the same day the state conducted its 500th execution.
If Davis decides to challenge him, the race would create ripple effects far beyond Texas and the South. Taking the Texas governorship back for the party would be a huge win for Democrats everywhere, and she would not lack for support and publicity. Whether she get the votes or not is another story, but a Perry-Davis showdown would be instantly become the most talked about and most hotly contested race of the next campaign cycle.
Update (12:15 p.m.): If you didn't already think a fight was coming, Perry just made it real, real personal. While speaking at the National Right to Life convention in Dallas today, Perry pointed out that Davis who was raised by a single mother and became a single mother herself (after a divorce) at age 19, then said "It's just unfortunate that she hasn't learned from her own example that that every life must be given a chance to realize its full potential and that every life matters." (Video via ThinkProgress; full text of his speech is on his website.)
He also said that "the louder they [pro-choice supporters] scream, the more we know that we are getting something done," another quote that will not sit with those being criticized.
Uh, WOW. Perry's mansplaining Wendy Davis's own life to her? https://t.co/hn4U03ailu— Kaili Joy Gray (@KailiJoy) June 27, 2013