Although crushed in the general election, Wendy Davis took center stage in 2014, as numerous controversial moments from her failed campaign to become Texas’ next governor often attracted the attention of national media outlets and political pundits.
Davis, a former state senator from Fort Worth, rose to national prominence in 2013 after filibustering a bill restricting abortion access, offering faint hope to Texas liberals who wrongly believed a Democrat could capture a state office for the first time in two decades.
In fact, Davis’ publicized stand for women’s rights led one Greg Abbott supporter to make sure her fundraising trip to Hollywood in May would be a memorable one.
In a much media-scrutinized move, Kathryn Stuard, an oil entrepreneur from Midland, commissioned a wave of life-size posters for Davis trip, which read: “Hollywood Welcomes Abortion Barbie Wendy Davis.”
The posters plastered throughout Hollywood featured Davis’ head fixed on a Barbie doll’s body with a toy baby coming out of the stomach.
The nickname “Abortion Barbie” lingered in some conservative circles but as Davis’ campaign moved forward, she eclipsed the grotesque attack by launching a series of negative attacks herself.
In October, Davis created a media firestorm with the release of a 30-second spot entitled “Justice,” which started with a picture of a wheelchair, presumably representative of the disabled Abbott, then asserts that even though Texas’ former attorney general sued and received millions when a tree fell on and disabled him, he’s spent his career “working against other victims.”
Fox News star Sean Hannity called the spot “one of the most outrageous attack ads ever” on his program.
Despite the controversy, Davis stood by the ad. And armed with tens of millions in contributions, the trial lawyer turned politician emptied her war chest and continued to flood Texas airwaves with spots all the way up to Election Day.
In a race that saw more than $80 million in spending, the Abbott camp often criticized Davis for her out-of-state fundraising, making sure to send emails to supporters every time she left for Chicago, California, New York or Washington to hold a fundraiser.
However, even though one out of every four dollars collected by Davis came from an out-of-state donor, her biggest supporter lives in Houston.
Plaintiff’s attorney Steve Mostyn and his firm, the Mostyn Law Firm, pumped more than $3 million into Davis’ coffers last year.
Mostyn, the top funder of Texas Democrats, made hundreds of millions suing the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike.
Even Beaumont’s own Walter Umphrey got in on the action, chipping in $500,000 for Davis’ run.
But in spite of local trial lawyers opening up their wallets, Davis never pulled within single digits of Abbott throughout her bid – a beating that earned her campaign a kind of honorable mention award.
On Dec. 10 Texas Monthly announced Davis was the winner of its “Bum Steer of the Year” award, calling her campaign a “train wreck.”