(CNN) – After weeks of buildup, Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis formally kicked off a bid for governor Thursday on the same stage where she graduated from high school.
"All of you deserve to have your voices heard. Because our future is brightest when it's lit by everyone's star," Davis told an ebullient crowd of supporters. "That's why today, I am proud to announce my candidacy to be the 48th governor of this great state."
Davis famously catapulted to national attention in June when she staged a one-person filibuster in an effort to block legislation that restricts abortion rights. The filibuster managed to delay the bill but not kill it, with a special session of the state legislature called the next day by Republican Gov. Rick Perry specifically to take the bill up again.
That filibuster was clearly on Davis' mind Thursday, along with issues like education, accessible health care and a general sense of an unresponsive state government.
"In Austin today, our current leadership thinks that promises are just something you make to the people who write you big checks," Davis said.
"But the promises, the promise that I'm talking about is bigger than that. It's the promise of a better tomorrow for everyone."
Davis faces a long, hard fight to replace Perry, who has said he will not seek a fourth term and is thought to be mulling a presidential bid in 2016. Texas has had Republican governors since former president George W. Bush was elected to power in the mid-1990s. Under Bush and Perry, Texas has earned a reputation as a blood red state, business friendly and socially conservative.
Going into the race, Davis' main focus appears to be education, spurred by her own story as a single mom at the age of 19 who decided to attend community college and ultimately graduated from Harvard Law School.
"I worry that the journey I made is a lot steeper for young Texans today," Davis said.
"College is more expensive, the choices for working families are fewer, and far too many young people yearning to continue their own educational journeys are turned down for grants and loans because state leaders have turned a deaf ear to their needs and blocked their paths."
Davis' most likely Republican opponent is Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a man who does not have nearly the name recognition of Perry.
In a statement, Abbott spokesman Avdiel Huerta responded to Davis's announcement: "once again, Texas Democrats are attempting to conjure support for California-style candidates that try to sell Obama's liberal agenda and go against what makes Texas great."
"Nonetheless, we welcome Senator Davis to the race, and look forward to presenting the clear differences and debating the important issues that will preserve the economic miracle in Texas," Huerta continued.
Davis can expect quite a bit of national support and national money because of her June filibuster. Minutes after an email went out to supporters formally announcing her candidacy shortly before the speech, Davis was endorsed by former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean and his political group, Democracy for America.
"Wendy Davis is the voice of reason for Texas," Dean said in a statement announcing the endorsement. "She has proven to be courageous and has the leadership to guide Texas back on track."