Wendy Davis Draws Starstruck Fans in Philly, 3 Years After Pink Shoes

Judging by the throngs of adoring fans at the Democratic National Convention, you'd never guess former state Sen. Wendy Davis lost her bid for Texas governor by 20 points.

Former state Sen. Wendy Davis getting ready for a television interview inside of the Wells Fargo Center, site of the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, on July 27, 2016.
Former state Sen. Wendy Davis getting ready for a television interview inside of the Wells Fargo Center, site of the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, on July 27, 2016.  Abby Livingston

PHILADELPHIA — As Wendy Davis made the rounds this week at the Democratic National Convention, it seemed lost on nearly everyone in the convention bubble that not only did she not win the 2014 Texas gubernatorial race — she lost big.

Nearly everywhere the former state senator from Fort Worth went, from the Liberty Bell to the convention hall itself, she could barely take 10 paces without drawing a starstruck fan. 

Even, in some cases, among actual TV stars at the convention. 

"You look like Catherine Deneuve," television personality Joy Behar exclaimed inside the arena on Wednesday, comparing Davis to the famous French actress. 

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"She does," Behar added, agreeing with herself. "The face of France. The face of Texas." 

There are plenty of Texas Republicans who would take issue with that last sentiment. Not only did Gov. Greg Abbott wallop her by a 20-point margin, Davis' political future in Texas is essentially in neutral, with no clear path back into elected office.

But on the national stage, it's a different story. 

For many wealthy female donors and young women first engaging in politics, Davis' 2013 state Senate filibuster against restrictive abortion legislation remains a pivotal moment in the modern feminist movement. 

And Davis got Democratic love — lots of it — from those fans in the city of brotherly love this week. 

As she entered a Planned Parenthood event Wednesday, a young woman with purple hair could not contain her excitement. 

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"I got Mizunos because of you," said Jessica Semmler, a nod to Davis' famous pink filibuster tennis shoes. 

Meandering through crowds on Independence Mall en route to an MSNBC appearance, supporters approached Davis at every turn. 

"Wendy Davis? Wendy Davis!" screamed Bobbi Goldner, a young Bernie Sanders backer from California. "Thank you so much for everything you've done. Will you get on my live video feed?" 

And a convention hall excursion in search of a television studio devolved into minor pandemonium. 

"Senator Davis! I watched almost four hours of your filibuster!" a young man hollered. 

In the years since her abortion filibuster, Davis seems to have grown conditioned to the national attention, and called it "a beautiful following." 

"I was actually really struck after the [2014 gubernatorial] race was over that it was still there," she said, adding that it spurred her to launch Deeds Not Words, her new nonprofit that focuses on civic engagement. "I realized that I had a unique audience of young women, and I feel a responsibility to it."

Kristin Oblander, a Georgia-based Democratic fundraiser who attended two events featuring Davis on Wednesday, said in some ways, it is easier for Democrats outside of Texas to see Davis as a national political figure. They were further removed from Davis' 2014 drubbing. 

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"We don't carry the burden of the baggage ... personally, like some of the people of Texas are," she said. 

Beth Cope, a Democratic activist from Georgia who recently moved to New Jersey, said Davis particularly resonates with Southern women who support abortion rights but sometimes feel uncomfortable speaking publicly about it. 

“For a lot of women in the South, what Wendy represented was a voice they felt like they never had," she said. 

Davis was officially in Philadelphia as an at-large delegate, a status she said she earned for traveling the country speaking on Clinton's behalf. On Wednesday, she hit nearly all of the iconic Philly sights as she crossed the city for seemingly non-stop television and event appearances. 

"This is actually my first convention," she said as she negotiated the "Rocky" steps. 

She was so tied up that a traffic jam kept her from witnessing the historic roll call vote Tuesday that made Hillary Clinton the first woman to get a major party's nomination for president.  

So what does this fame mean for Davis — or for Texas? 

There's no chance she will try to reclaim the state Senate seat currently held by Republican Konni BurtonDavis recently relocated from Fort Worth to Austin. And though she caused something of a stir this week by being noncommittal about a potential 2018 challenge to Sen. Ted Cruzshe later told The Texas Tribune, "Is it something I'm mulling? Nope."

Davis wouldn't rule out a run for Congress in the next decade, if redistricting or retirement created an opportunity in Austin. That's where she's found the young political talent for her new group — and more important, it's home to her first grandchild. 

Whether she'd consider serving in a potential Clinton administration is yet to be seen. 

"I know it's hard for people to believe, but I'm very sincere when I say this: I am doing what I am doing for Hillary because I so desperately want her to win this election," she said. "I don't know what the future will hold in that regard, but that's enough for me."

Could she see herself in Washington? 

"There's a possibility, sure," she said. "I won't say there is a probability." 

Disclosure: Planned Parenthood has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.