Planned Parenthood Plug Could Be Sarah Davis
Salvation and Tipping Point in Majority Battle
By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor
September 3, 2020
State Rep. Sarah Davis - one of the GOP's most endangered state lawmakers in 2020 - might have a shot at surviving a blue typhoon that's building off the Texas coast as a consequence of a potentially game-changing break that she scored on Thursday with an endorsement from Planned Parenthood.
While Davis had earned the group's support as an unabashed advocate of the right of women to make the call on abortions, the Planned Parenthood pitch appeared to be up in the air in the face of intense pressure from partisan Democrats to back challenger Ann Johnson in House District 134 in Houston this fall instead.
The pro-choice activists who pressed Planned Parenthood's Texas branch to abandon its support for Davis had nothing against the 10-year House veteran who's voted in lockstep with Democrats on abortion and faced vilification within her own party as a result. Davis has been an advocate for LGBTQ rights as well as a member of a party that's sought to weaken them.
But the Democrat loyalists who opposed the Davis endorsement had the big picture in mind at a time when the Democratic Party can reclaim a Texas House majority with a net gain of nine seats with HD 134 as the most vulnerable district on paper by far this fall.
The outcome of the Houston House battle could be the difference between the status quo or a Democratic takeover in a lower chamber that the GOP has controlled for almost 18 years. The Democrats would almost certainly elect one of their own as speaker if they take the House back in November.
Davis has been a classic anomaly in a world of ever-increasing partisan gridlock - having never wavered on the social issues that are dear to her heart and clearly in sync with the unique, affluent and highly-educated district that she represents in a swath of the city west of downtown. HD 134 is home to the world's largest medical center - and Davis' strong support from doctors has been a major reason that she's been able to hold the office as long as she has in a district that's undergone a major partisan realignment during her stint as a lawmaker.
The incumbent's position on abortion could have more impact on her quest for a sixth term than it has on any other candidate for the Legislature or Congress in Texas.
Davis, who's an attorney, on the affluent west side of the city, flipped HD 134 in 2010 when she unseated an incumbent Democrat who wrestled the seat from the Republicans four years earlier with less than 51 percent of the vote. Davis prevailed that year despite the fact that former Houston mayor Bill White fared three tenths of a percentage point better as the Democratic nominee for governor in a battle with incumbent Republican Rick Perry.
But the 2010 vote at the top of the ticket in HD 134 seemed to be an aberration two years later when Mitt Romney defeated Barack Obama there by 14 percentage points - just two below the GOP presidential nominee's statewide share.
But Governor Greg Abbott carried the Davis district by a mere two points in 2014 - and HD 134 appeared to be full-scale shade of blue within two years when Hillary Clinton clobbered President Donald Trump there by 16 points. Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke crushed U.S. Senator Ted Cruz in Davis' district in 2018 by more than 20 percentage points.
But Davis had her survival skills on full display in the last election cycle when a dozen Democrats flipped House seats from red to blue in districts that were all more Republican on paper than HD 134.