AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – Democratic gubernatorial candidate and state Sen. Wendy Davis announced Sunday she’s picked the architect of Tammy Baldwin’s historic U.S. Senate election last year to manage her campaign.
Karin Johanson managed Baldwin’s well-funded 2012 campaign, helping her become the first openly gay candidate elected to the Senate. Baldwin also became the first woman from her home state of Wisconsin elected to that body by defeating Republican former Gov. Tommy Thompson.
“Karin has proven that she can win tough races,” Bo Delp, communications director for Davis’ campaign, said in a statement. “She has taken on and beaten a full arsenal of failed leadership, despite millions in negative ads.”
In signing on with Davis, Johanson likely is facing an uphill climb. The Fort Worth Democrat is considered a longshot against likely GOP gubernatorial nominee and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who has strong statewide name recognition and a sizeable campaign war chest.
No Democrat has won statewide office in Texas since 1994, though next year’s gubernatorial race features no incumbent–since Gov. Rick Perry announced this summer that he wasn’t seeking a fourth full term in office.
Johanson also previously served as chief of staff and press secretary to U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the House’s No. 2 Democrat.
In 2006, she was executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. There, she led one of the largest congressional voter turnout operations ever, an $11.5 million effort covering 36 congressional districts.
Johanson also has experience campaigning in Florida and is a longtime strategist for EMILY’s List, dedicated to getting Democratic women elected to public office.
Davis became an overnight national political sensation during Texas’ special legislative session this summer, when she staged a 12-plus hour filibuster that temporarily blocked a series of new state limits on abortion. The omnibus abortion bill was later easily approved, however, after Perry called lawmakers back for a second special session.
Abbott, meanwhile, has been attorney general since 2002 and enjoys strong support from both the mainstream Texas GOP and conservative grassroots groups.