EMILY's List President: Don't Count Out Wendy Davis

The Democratic women's group is targeting five gubernatorial races in 2014 and says polling shows the country is ready for a female chief executive two years later.

EMILY's List President Stephanie Schriock said in an interview that Democrat Wendy Davis still has a shot in the Texas governor's race this fall, even though polls have shown her well behind.

Speaking on C-SPAN's Newsmakers program, which will air Sunday, Schriock said the heralded Democratic state senator "still has a chance" and that the race against Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott has only recently kicked into gear.

"I'm not saying it's easy," Schriock said. "I'm not blind to the fact that we're dealing with a race in Texas. But this is far from over."

Davis launched her campaign in 2013 after attracting nationwide attention for a lengthy filibuster of abortion legislation in the Texas state Senate. Still, Davis has never led in public polling, though Schriock noted the candidates have really just started introducing themselves to voters.

"This race is going to get closer as we get closer to the elections," Schriock said.

EMILY's List has endorsed five gubernatorial candidates this year as it attempts to boost the number of Democratic women governors, which currently stands at one—New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, who is running for reelection. Another pair of New Englanders (Rhode Island's Gina Raimondo and Massachusetts's Martha Coakley) will be favored in the fall if they win their primaries, and a fifth, Wisconsin businesswoman Mary Burke, is running neck-and-neck with Republican Gov. Scott Walker, a potential 2016 presidential candidate.

"I hear it all the time, 'We can't beat Governor Scott Walker, we've been down this road,' " Schriock said. "I'm here to tell you, this race is dead even." Walker and Burke were tied in the most recent Marquette Law School poll on the race.

EMILY's List has had great success boosting the number of Democratic women in Congress but less success with governors, helping elect just 10 in nearly three decades. Schriock said there seems to be a breakthrough process for executive positions. "EMILY's List has been at this work for 29 years and we've made great inroads," Schriock said. "We've helped elect 10 women governors. Now, on the other hand, we've only helped elect 10 women governors. So we do have a lot of work to do. But we do find that once that women and men see her, whoever she is, in that role, it just becomes commonplace."

As former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton approaches a decision on whether to run for president in 2016, Schriock said research EMILY's List conducted last year showed that Americans are "absolutely ready" for their first woman president. Schriock said that according to polling her group conducted in battleground states last year, voters see women "breaking through the partisan bickering and putting family and country in front of partisanship."

"I would have to say," Schriock continued, "in the current environment we're in today, this is a very good environment for a woman to step up and run for president of the United States."