The last open race for governor of Texas was in 1990 — a contest that ultimately featured two charismatic politicians and attracted national attention. But a recent piece in The New York Times said Greg Abbott is no Clayton Williams, and Wendy Davis is no Ann Richards.
The 1990 gubernatorial race was a great story, featuring some Texas stereotypes. Headlines like “Claytie and the Lady” were common. A throwback Republican cowboy, rich on oil, gas, banking and cattle, steeped in West Texas and Aggie and Borderland lore, promising to make things the way they used to be. A big-haired, smart-mouthed feminist who taught school and overcame substance abuse and the expectations for stay-at-home mothers, rising in politics as the voice of what she called a new Texas that had outgrown its bad old days.
The 2014 race to replace Rick Perry features a couple of smart lawyers who exemplify a more buttoned-down version, the modern Texas of cities and suburbs. Even Mr. Abbott’s leading challenger in the Republican primary, Tom Pauken, is a lawyer, too.
Abbott hopes to be the next chapter of a continuum that started with 6 years of Bush and was followed by 14 years of Perry. Ms. Davis is the latest hope of a party shut out since Ms. Richards lost to Mr. Bush in 1994. Neither has the kind of wealth that would let them self-finance a statewide race. Neither is the sort of speaker who makes even the opposition listen to enjoy the sheer art of it.
Things are different now. The energy is in the crowd and not on the stage. People come to see Mr. Abbott and Ms. Davis, for sure, but not as spectacles, not for the same reasons they came to see the candidates who came to be known as Ann and Claytie.
Mr. Abbott and Ms. Davis, with their impressive personal stories and their nearly ridiculous resumes, aren’t the personalities of 1990. This time, the conversation is about the politics.