Does the Wendy Davis Book Tour Count As Campaigning? Does It Matter?

She'll be doing less of this while she promotes that book.
She'll be doing less of this while she promotes that book.
Photo by Allison Hess

State Sen. Wendy Davis stopped campaigning for governor this week. You'd think that her Republican opponent, Attorney Gen. Greg Abbott, would be thrilled, but Abbott is thoroughly unenthusiastic about the move. Why? Well, Davis is taking a break from her campaign to promote her new book, Forgetting to Be Afraid.

And since she called a timeout and everything, she has been utterly focused on making sure people want to buy her book. Totally. She definitely was not trying to persuade Texas voters to consider her when she popped up on Good Morning America on Monday. She is not reminding the general population of the Lone Star State about her stance on abortion -- and those famous neon pink running shoes -- when she talks openly and honestly about the two abortions she chose to have (for medical reasons).

The fact that this book has made Davis's campaign front-page news, and given her some of the best coverage she's had since the filibuster that rocketed her to political stardom last year, is just a big old coincidence, not a clever bit of political maneuvering. Nope, she's just promoting her book, y'all. Nothing to see here.

Shockingly enough, Abbott doesn't exactly see it this way. In a complaint filed with the Texas Ethics Commission, Abbott claims that Davis is using the trappings of her book tour to continue her run for office while the publisher, Blue Rider Press, foots the bill.

"The book will be serving as a promotion of the issues the candidate has been highlighting over the course of the campaign," Wayne Hamilton, Abbott's campaign manager, wrote in his letter. "Because of the proximity of the book's publishing and the election, the candidate will be using political funds on voter contact at the same time the publisher is using corporate funds to promote the book."

It's a little surprising he's worried about it at all, though. After all, Davis has been trailing Abbott in double digits in the polls for ages. While Davis started out looking like the first Democrat in a long time who might actually have a tiny chance at being elected in Texas, she started stumbling right out of the gate of her formal run for governor.

Of course, if we're all being honest, the campaign memoir has been another method of, you know, campaigning for time immemorial. Any politician with ambitions of higher office writes some kind of a book and then uses it for the good of his or her campaign. These books are written to be campaign materials. They are meant to be read to persuade the reader to see the politician in question in a particular light. Way back when, Julius Caesar wrote Commentaries about the Gallic War right when he needed a little political juice. It's quite possibly one of the earliest campaign memoirs around, and if there had been such a thing as a promotional book tour back then, he'd have been out promoting his book quick as could be.

Davis's camp insists that they have taken care of things so that her book promotion is entirely within the confines of the rules. And it probably is. Technically. If someone just so happens to decide to vote for her based on some charming, ahem, book promotion appearance, well that's just a little bonus.


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