5 Things to Watch as Texas Lawmakers Debate Anti-Abortion Bill Again


"I think they're going to do the same thing they did in the last session, which is attempt to build a legislative record that shows that the alleged scientific underpinnings of this legislation are unfound," Brady said. "They're going to do what they always do -- set a record."

2) Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst Exerts His Influence

It is no surprise that Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who is running for re-election, is a critical player in helping to push SB-5, now known as SB-1, through the Texas Senate. He faces the threat of a conservative primary challenger in 2014 and, after losing to the Tea Party-backed Ted Cruz in the Republican U.S. Senate primary in 2012, Dewhurst needs to pass this bill in order to prove his conservative chops to the base.

"Not only does he have to pass the anti-abortion legislation, but he has to do so in an efficient and a timely manner," said Mark Jones, chairman of the political science department at Rice University. "If, by some stretch of the imagination, this legislation did not pass, Dewhurst should not even bother to run for re-election."

In Texas, Republican primaries are the only races that matter because the primary winner nearly always wins in the general election. And this anti-abortion bill is intended to speak to directly to the base of the party in Texas, which will have the final say in whether or not Dewhurst can serve another term as lieutenant governor.

Some conservatives have blamed him for not using a heavy enough hand to control the Senate during State Sen. Davis' 11-hour filibuster, which eventually killed the bill.

"Dewhurst is living on borrowed time, in some respects," said Brady. "He's never been popular really with Republican primary voters. And I do think a lot of members are blaming him for what happened on Tuesday.

"If he had exerted some influence on that, we would have had a very different outcome."

3) Playing the Long Game

It's no secret that Democrats are greatly outnumbered in Texas' legislature. But this issue could not have been more tailor-made for the state and national Democratic parties, which have labored intensively over the last several election cycles to paint Republicans as anti-women.

Several Democratic groups are hoping to slowly chip away at the Republican Party's dominance in the state, and Davis's filibuster has served as a powerful motivator.

Jeremy Bird, an architect of President Obama's grassroots organizing infrastructure, has teamed up with other Obama alumni to launch Battleground Texas, an effort to turn Texas from red to blue in part through voter registration and turnout.

Bird said that the state legislative battle has been a boon for the group's fundraising.

"It's helpful for funding and for folks putting more resources into the state to do what we're doing here to turn out voters," Bird said. "When you have, literally, millions of people that are sharing your values but just aren't turning out to vote, eventually this can be helpful to mobilize folks."

The key word, however, is eventually.

Texas's political makeup -- mostly Republican -- is by no means in flux at the moment. But Democrats hope that their efforts to tarnish the GOP's reputation among female voters, the growing Hispanic population and independent voters will come to roost closer to 2018 and 2022.

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