Texas Matters: Abortion legislation gets nearer to Gov. Rick Perry's desk as I type this sentence, but Texas Democrats are still rallying against the bill behind new star Wendy Davis. The fight over abortion in the state is far from over -- even after the bill is signed -- but the debate has now galvanized both Republicans and Democrats in the state as candidates are beginning to announce intent for the 2014 mid-term election. Rick Perry announced he will not run for another term, which is shaking things up across the board.
Things are moving fast for the controversial abortion restriction bills in Austin and they are expected to be signed into law before the day is through.
Thursday in San Antonio a pro-choice rally with Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth demonstrated that there is lots of opposition to that bill and Democrats are not giving up the fight.
Abortion galvanizing both parties gearing up for 2014
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott says he will make a "major announcement" on Sunday in San Antonio, which is fueling speculation that he will formally announce the kick off for his campaign for governor.
It was just on Monday -- also in San Antonio -- that Perry announced he will not seek re-election and Abbott has been seen as the front runner in the now-open race for governor.
Davis is seen as a strong possible Democratic candidate in the governor's race and said Abbott would be a tough candidate to oppose.
"I think of course he is a formidable person, he's got a formidable war chest, but I do think that Texas deserves to have a general election contest where we have an opportunity to talk about ideas in the middle. So hopefully we'll have an opportunity to do that depending on who it is, who steps up, and hopefully someone will, we'll see."
Perry announced on Monday he will not seek a fourth term as governor, which brings to an end the longest run as governor in Texas history.
Perry's exit is opening a flood gate of political ambitions that has been dammed up for over 10 years. Now there is a scramble for open seats and state elected officials looking to upgrade their seats of power.
Harvey Kronberg of the Quorum Report helps us identify the players in the upcoming GOP primary.
Office of the Governor:
"He is the front runner (Greg Abbott). He only has one announced opponent [and] that announced opponent hasn't broken $1 million in fundraising yet. It is possible that Greg Abbott could make the same fatal mistake that Rick Perry, Kay Bailey Hutchison and David Dewhurst made, and that is to walk on the stage with a sense of entitlement, ignore his opponent and run a rose garden, mostly T.V., strategy. But these are Republican primary voters and they don't like royalty and I don't think he is going to make the same mistake that they made, but frankly that's his only vulnerability... We're only talking about 1.2 million to 1.4 million Republican primary voters, which means the next governor is essentially going to be picked by about 700,000 voters."
Attorney General's Office:
"Dan Branch has not formally announced -- Dan Branch is state rep from Dallas, from Highland Park- area, the chairman of higher education and a big defender of University of Texas, which is obviously a big deal right now. Barry Smitherman has announced that he is running, he's currently railroad commission chairman. His advantage, of course, is that our laws do not prevent a sitting railroad commissioner from hitting up the oil and gas industries that he regulates for campaign contributions. That's not to take anything away from Smitherman, but it gives him entrée into some serious fundraising for that office. The most interesting of the three, who has also not announced, is Ken Paxton, state senator from Collin County. Paxton is Tea Party through and through, much beloved up in the metroplex, served in the House, now in the Senate, and he will have the least amount of money but perhaps the most ardent supporters."
Taking the political pulse of Texas
What do the people of Texas think about Perry and his years in office and what are their thoughts about abortion and other hot-button issues in the state? The Texas Politics Project has been conducting polls to to take the pulse of Texans' political sentiment.
Dr. James Henson directs the project and teaches in the Department of Government at The University of Texas.
"When we ask the general abortion question that we ask regularly, which is a very standard question asked on polls throughout the states and throughout the country, we found, not surprisingly, the pattern that we've seen before: A state that's very closely divided on abortion with a very small number of people that would like to prohibit abortion -- only 16 percent of Texans said that abortion should never, ever be legally available, but 30 percent of Texans say that abortion should only be available in cases of rape, incest or threat to a woman's life. So if you combine those numbers with the numbers on the less restrictive end of abortion you get basically a 46-49 split with 49 (percent) wanting abortion permitted under much less stringent circumstances."