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Questions surrounding the viability of Democrat Wendy Davis’ gubernatorial campaign in Texas were silenced Tuesday, when the state senator reported an extremely high fundraising haul during the last quarter of 2013. From July 1 to December 31, Davis raised over $12 million from more than 70,000 individual donors.

The money raised put Davis “way past the credibility threshold,” Davis spokeswoman Rebecca Acuña told Politico. “They are huge, huge numbers showing there is so much support and momentum for her race,” Acuña added.

Davis, a state senator from Fort Worth, rose to national prominence after her 11-hour filibuster in June 2013, which temporarily delayed a vote on a bill that would limit abortion rights in the Lone Star State. She capitalized on the newfound recognition and declared her candidacy for Texas governor in September 2013.

Part of what is driving Davis’ success is a calculated effort by the national Democratic Party to turn Texas blue. The fundraising blitz was aided by “Battleground Texas,” a grassroots political organization run by former Obama campaign aides.

Jeremy Bird, who served as the Obama campaign’s national field officer in 2008 and 2012, started Battleground Texas with a handful of other veteran Washington operatives. Their goals were simple: make Texas a competitive state by turning out the Democratic vote. By reaching out to a host of demographic groups, including women, Battleground Texas is seeing positive results. “We’re going to try to do one of the hardest things in politics, which is to work with people who don’t believe their voice matters and tell them that it does matter, and see that ripple,” Bird said at the first Battleground Texas meeting last year.

But, despite the energy and financing behind Davis, she faces a tough challenge in deeply conservative Texas. For one, her Republican opponent, Greg Abbott, is no fundraising slouch himself. In the same period, he raked in $11.5 million, according to Avdiel Huerta, an Abbott spokesman. His campaign also has $27 million in cash on hand, and stressed to Politico that 97 percent of its donations came from within the state.

Wayne Hamilton, Abbott’s campaign manager, said in a statement:

“This is a campaign by Texans, for Texans, and Greg Abbott is humbled and excited by the widespread support from across the state. Our campaign will continue to talk about and promote ideas to make Texas’ education system No. 1 in the nation, continue to grow jobs, limit the size and scope of government and preserve individual freedom.”

The encouraging fundraising numbers by Davis, thanks to smart grassroots politics, may signal a growing liberal shift in Texas politics. All the energy, however, may not be enough for the state that sent Rick Perry to the governor’s mansion three times. According to the Real Clear Politics polling average of the race, Abbott still leads Davis by 9.7 percent.

Photo: Alan Kotok via Flickr

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