By Marice Richter
DALLAS, Texas (Reuters) - Wendy Davis, the Texas state senator who staged a filibuster against sweeping abortion restrictions, is expected to announce plans to run for governor on Thursday, ending months of speculation.
The 50-year-old Democrat gained national attention when she talked for nearly 11 hours on the Texas Senate floor in June to temporarily block new restrictions on abortion.
Davis, a second-term state senator, saw her national profile skyrocket when her filibuster drew thousands of demonstrators to the state Capitol and played out in livestreams on websites across the United States.
The bill would have banned most abortions after 20 weeks and imposed strict new requirements on clinics. It eventually passed, but Davis' newfound popularity continued and she was able to add $1 million to her campaign coffers.
The second-term senator has declined to confirm publicly what her plans are before Thursday's announcement. Highly placed Democrats have said she has told them of her intentions to run for the seat being vacated by Gov. Rick Perry, the former presidential contender who has said he will not seek re-election.
She will announce her plans Thursday afternoon at a rally at the coliseum where she received her high school diploma, in the working-class Fort Worth suburb of Haltom City.
If Davis gets the nod by her party during the primaries next spring, the Harvard graduate and twice-divorced mother of two who rose from poverty as a single teen mom in a Texas trailer park to a successful career in law and politics will face an expected uphill battle.
Her likely opponent would be current GOP frontrunner, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who has a war chest close to $25 million. The election is in November 2014.
Perry has not said what his plans are, but many speculate that he will try a second time for the Republican nomination for president after his attempt in 2011 fell flat.
Supporters of Davis in Texas had been trying to recruit her to run for governor since 2011, when she forced Republicans into a special legislative session over their plans to cut billions from state education - another bill that eventually passed the GOP-dominated statehouse.
But her stand in the now-famous pink running shoes earlier this summer, which landed her on the cover of the storied September issue of Vogue magazine, identified her as the Democrat who might have the best chance of claiming the state's top seat after nearly 20 years of Republican victories in statewide races.
The last Democrat to win the governor's spot was Ann Richards in 1990. Republicans have won every statewide seat since 1994 and have dominated the Texas Legislature since 2003.
(Editing by Karen Brooks and Diane Craft)