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Wendy Davis: Abortion is 'Not the Only Issue That I Care About'

Former Texas gubernatorial candidate says she faced a “backlash” when she attempted to expand her message beyond women’s reproductive rights.
Wendy Davis
Texas democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis presents her new education policy during a stop at Palo Alto College, on Aug. 26, in San Antonio.Eric Gay / AP

Former Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis said she faced “backlash” from supporters when she attempted to expand her message beyond women’s reproductive rights, the issue that thrust her onto the national stage.

“It was a damned if you do, damned if you don’t sort of a situation,” the Democrat told NBC News’ Chuck Todd in an interview Tuesday at the SXSW conference for “1947: The Meet the Press Podcast” as part of the Meet the Press 70th Anniversary kickoff event.

“The more we tried to broaden that conversation and fill it out, the more backlash we were getting from people who wanted us to continue to press on the issues of women’s reproductive freedom. Clearly that is very, very important to me and it is an issue that I continue to be a very strong voice on today. But it’s not the only issue that I care about. And it can be very difficult to break out of it when you become identified very strongly aligned with one particular issue.”

Davis rose to national prominence in 2013 when she staged an 11-hour filibuster of an abortion restrictions bill in the Texas legislature. The bill passed, but her actions galvanized abortion rights activists who found a champion in Davis. However the issue proved to be a hurdle during her 2014 gubernatorial campaign.

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Davis says she would like to run for office again — in Texas. “I would love to run for office again and I hope to run for office again,” she said. “I could have an easier political career elsewhere. But I want to stay here and I want to make a difference here. ...I don't have a preconceived notion of what it looks like.”

And Davis said she was optimistic that the solid hold Republicans have in statewide races in the state is slipping and that Democrats can win there in the near future. “I hope it and I believe it. I tend to be very optimistic, i always see that glass as half full,” she said.

Hillary Clinton lost Texas in last year’s presidential election by a smaller margin than she lost in Iowa and Davis noted she cut the margin in half compared to President Obama’s 2012 re-election. “And that, of course, is in a state where there wasn’t a lot in the way of resources being spent here to help develop and turn out that vote so it was a very encouraging sign,” she said.