Wendy Davis and Ted Cruz Articles Show Dramatic 'Texan of the Year' Tilt of Dallas Newspaper

It’s only natural that both liberal state Sen. Wendy Davis and conservative U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz would be nominees for “Texan of the Year” at the Dallas Morning News. (In the end, they chose the rescuers at the West, Texas fertilizer-plant explosion, which killed 12 first responders.) But the two editorials on Davis (on December 26) and Cruz (on December 27) show how liberal editorialists can struggle with being honest with the facts.

Both went to Harvard Law School – Davis graduating in 1993, Cruz in 1995. Both gained prominence this year with failed legislative maneuvers. Both draw great excitement from their party’s base voters. Let’s see how the Dallas pundits played with the facts:

1. They mentioned Davis was a “Harvard-trained lawyer” as they puffed her. The Cruz piece had no mention of his Harvard education:

Cruz, 43, is clearly intelligent and well spoken, but he’s something other than introspective. Even overwhelming defeat does little to shake his confidence in the rightness of his cause, if only the rest of us could see it. This appeals to his growing fan base, even as it troubles those of us who believe that only by giving a little can someone gain something in return.

Compare that to Davis, who didn’t compromise on abortion and "overwhelming defeat" didn't shake her confidence, or theirs in her:

As she spoke, the Texas Capitol rapidly swelled with supporters. The Senate gallery overflowed as her protest continued. For a moment, while a lone senator stood her ground, the scene in the chamber resembled a Hollywood script.

Except she was not on a movie set. The Harvard-trained lawyer was in the midst of the sharpest of political debates. Her oratory galvanized a portion of the Texas electorate that had been hungering for dynamic leadership. Suddenly many Democrats no longer felt like they belonged to the party of lost causes. That came all because Davis seized the moment and microphone, earning her a berth among finalists for 2013 Dallas Morning News Texan of the Year.

2. Ted Cruz was on the “hard right.” There were no ideological labels for Davis.

Davis merely galvanized an unlabeled “portion of the Texas electorate...hungering for dynamic leadership.” But Cruz was painted as extreme:

From the day Ted Cruz introduced himself, he has been exactly what he said he would be, for good or ill. In May 2012, he was just a name in a crowded field of Republicans seeking to succeed Kay Bailey Hutchison as U.S. senator. Pressed repeatedly about how he intended to govern in Washington with an unbending, uncompromising, hard-right platform, Cruz figuratively threw up his hands:

“If you’re looking for a moderate who would work across the aisle and might possibly be interested in raising taxes … I’m not your guy,” he told this newspaper’s editorial board.

3. The Ted Cruz filibuster was “faux” and offensive to most people. The Davis filibuster was a glorious event that is making her a rising star with a compelling personal narrative.

Cruz's brief Senate career was "remarkable," but remarkably bad to anyone who isn't conservative:

What Ted Cruz has done in less than a year since taking the oath is, well, remarkably good to supporters, remarkably bad to most everyone else, or just remarkable. Love him, hate him or fear him, Cruz has catapulted himself into every serious discussion of Congress — and congressional dysfunction — and crafted the outlines of a 2016 presidential run.

More than enough to qualify as a finalist for Dallas Morning News Texan of the Year. Who better typifies uncommon impact?

The problem is that Cruz’s impact has been more to his benefit and less to his state’s. He has raised his personal profile to heights extraordinary for a freshman senator, but, as we feared, Texas has lost influence and prestige along the way.

Cruz, for instance, became the face of the doomed effort to force congressional defunding of the Affordable Care Act, highlighted by his 21-hour faux Senate filibuster. When House Republicans gave Cruz what he wanted, the federal government went into partial shutdown, costing the GOP valuable good will among voters and exacerbating the perception of a hopelessly gridlocked Congress.

It didn’t help that Republicans eventually had to surrender for next to nothing. And it’s clear now that the shutdown distracted attention from what would become a disastrous Obamacare rollout.

Isn't it a little late in the year to try the crippled spin that somehow the disastrous Obamacare rollout had its image enhanced by Cruz's tactics? Didn't the Davis tennis-shoes show result in "nothing," even if she didn't "surrender"? It apparently didn't matter if she failed. Her "star rose and rose."

Davis’ talk-a-thon may have brought the bill down as a special session of the Legislature ran into its final hours. But her ad-libbing and scripted readings didn’t kill the measure. Republicans rallied in a follow-up special session to pass the legislation, which, among other changes, requires doctors who perform abortions to get hospital admitting privileges, a restriction critics said would doom many clinics.


GOP lawmakers may have won on the policy side, but Davis’ star rose — and rose and rose. The one-time Fort Worth city council member became the topic of stories from Washington to New York, Los Angeles and London. Camera crews came calling, and Davis was thrust into one of those spotlights that transform a political figure into a household name...

Texas remains strongly Republican, but Democrats feel they have the best gubernatorial candidate since Ann Richards. Davis, 50, combines star power with a compelling personal narrative.

Her mother had a sixth-grade education, and Davis herself was a teenage mother by 19. At one point she lived in a trailer park with her young daughter. Her horizons were limited until she enrolled in Tarrant County’s community college district, then at Texas Christian University, where she finished first in her class. She went on to Harvard Law School, graduating with honors.

Her personal story might have gone unheralded had it not been for her filibuster. Texans now are about to hear much more about Wendy Davis over the next year. Whether her new celebrity helps her win the governorship in 2014 is another question. But this summer’s strategic moment of defiance energized Texas Democrats and launched a new Texas political star.

This just sounds like every leg-thrilled liberal political reporter on the Eastern seaboard. So Ted Cruz doesn't have a compelling personal narrative? Ted Cruz never draws a journalist from London or Los Angeles? It's strange that Cruz has been elected statewide and is less of a "rising star" than a state Senator who Republicans say is running for governor because she can't get re-elected to her own Senate seat.

PS: The videos accompanying the stories are mostly a re-reading of the actual editorials. But there are a few stray sentences. The Davis one strangely claims "She was also able to galvanize her side, which is something very few legislators are able to do." Very few? The Cruz one had a positive line: “Probably the most popular single Republican in the state."

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis