HOUSTON (AP) — Andrew White, son of the late former Democratic Texas Gov. Mark White, kicked off his longshot bid for governor Thursday, saying his mix of business-minded, conservative Democratic values can upend well-funded Republican incumbent Greg Abbott.
White held a rally with about 100 supporters in his hometown of Houston and promised to run as a "commonsense Democrat."
He has previously opposed abortion rights and has been criticized by former Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis, who garnered national stardom in 2013 by staging a filibuster that temporarily delayed tough restrictions on abortion later largely overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. Davis later launched a bid against Abbott, but lost by 20 percentage points.
During his announcement speech, White, 45, didn't mention opposing abortion, saying the procedure is "legal and we must all work to keep it safe and keep it rare."
White, president of an investment firm, is little-known statewide. He becomes just the second major Democrat to enter a race that many of the party's rising stars opted to bypass, joining Dallas County Sherriff Lupe Valdez, the state's first Hispanic, female sheriff, who resigned her post and began her campaign Wednesday.
Whoever emerges as the Democratic candidate after Texas' March 6 primary will face an uphill climb. Abbott remains popular among conservative activists and traditional Republicans and has a campaign war chest worth $40-plus million. Also, a Democrat hasn't won Texas statewide office since 1994.
"I know you're tired of losing. I am too," White said Thursday. "If winning in November is important you, than I'm your candidate."
Abbott's campaign declined comment other than pointing to a statement it released after Valdez's announcement, poking fun at Texas Democrats for taking so long to find viable gubernatorial candidates. Leading party members in the Legislature declined to run, as did U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro and his twin brother Joaquin, the former mayor of San Antonio.
White's dad died of a heart attack in August at age 77. He governor from 1983 to 1987, when Texas was still solidly Democratic controlled. His son has never before held elected office.
During Hurricane Harvey, the younger White used his own fishing boat to perform rescues from flooded Houston neighborhoods, eventually carrying dozens to safety.
"I am proud to be Mark White's son," he said. "But I'm not running as Mark White's son."