January 20th, 2014
11:57 AM ET
9 years ago

Report: Wendy Davis' life story more complicated than compelling narrative

Updated 3:47 p.m. ET, 1/20/2014

(CNN) – Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis admitted in an interview with the Dallas Morning News that she hasn't been totally accurate about her life's story, a compelling narrative she has used to appeal to voters in Texas and bolster her national profile.

"My language should be tighter," the Democratic state senator said. "I'm learning about using broader, looser language. I need to be more focused on the detail."

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After her marathon filibuster against proposed abortion laws in the Texas legislature last summer, Davis was propelled to the national stage. The attention gave her the support and encouragement to announce a bid for governor in October.

She frequently shared her biography both before and after she started running for governor, saying she was a single mother by the age of 19 and lived in a trailer with her young daughter. From there, she eventually put herself through community college, Texas Christian University, and Harvard Law School with the help of scholarship and loans.

The Morning News, however, reported over the weekend that Davis became a single mother at 21, not 19, when she got divorced from her then-husband, who was directed to pay child support.

"She lived only a few months in the family mobile home while separated from her husband before moving into an apartment with her daughter," writes Wayne Slater, the paper's senior political writer.

Davis' campaign released a statement later Monday to clarify some of the details from her life.

"Wendy left home at 17, married when she was 18 and had her first daughter Amber when she was 19. She and her husband lived in a trailer, and Wendy continued to live there with Amber after they were separated."

"As a single mother at age 19, she often struggled to make ends meet," the statement continued. "Wendy filed for divorce when she was 20 and she and Amber lived for a short time with her mother. The divorce became final when she was 21."

Davis later got help from a second husband, Jeff Davis, who helped pay for her two years at Texas Christian University and her time at Harvard.

"When she was accepted to Harvard Law School, Jeff Davis cashed in his 401(k) account and eventually took out a loan to pay for her final year there," Slater reports.

The Texas Tribune also reported details from Wendy Davis' relationship with Jeff Davis, as well as her complicated life story, back in September.

While Davis was in Boston, her husband took care of their two young daughters, the Morning News article stated.

However, according to the statement provided by her campaign, the girls lived with Davis in Boston during her first year at law school. After that, the girls lived in Fort Worth and Davis commuted weekly to see them. Her mother played a "daily caretaking role" to help Jeff Davis, her campaign said.

After she graduated from Harvard, she came back to Fort Worth and completed a judicial clerkship and worked as an attorney at the law firm Haynes and Boone.

Jeff Davis told the Morning News he "opened some doors for her with some people" so she could pursue her interest in running for city council in 1996. She lost, but ran two years later and won.

Jeff and Wendy Davis ended up getting divorced in 2005, roughly when her final Harvard payment was due.

"I made the last payment, and it was the next day she left," Jeff Davis told the Morning News.

Wendy Davis took issue with the idea that he solely supported her.

"I was a vibrant part of contributing to our family finances from the time I graduated to the time we separated in 2003," she told the paper. "The idea that suddenly there was this instantaneous departure after Jeff had partnered so beautifully with me in putting me through school is just absurd."

Slater reports: "In his initial divorce filing, Jeff Davis said the marriage had failed, citing adultery on her part and conflicts that the couple could not overcome. The final court decree makes no mention of infidelity, granting the divorce solely "on the ground of insupportability.""

Jeff Davis won parental custody, and Wendy Davis agreed to pay $1,200 per month in child support, according to the report. Citing her own rocky childhood, Wendy Davis said she wanted her daughters to stay in the home they grew up in.

"I very willingly, as part of my divorce settlement, paid child support. That was at my request, not any court telling me I needed to financially support my daughters," she said.

Her campaign, however, said Jeff and Wendy Davis shared custody of both daughters after the final divorce proceedings.

Davis is on good terms with her daughters, who are now adults. They support their mother's run for governor and appear in a campaign video for her.

"She and Jeff Davis have a healthy and respectful relationship based on their mutual love of their daughters," her campaign said.

Twitter lit afire Monday with critics blasting Davis for leaving out key parts of her personal history, such as the help she received from Jeff Davis. The hashtag #MoreFakeThanWendyDavis, used mostly by conservatives, became a trending topic on the social media site.

Though she admitted some details had been blurred, Davis defended her overall story as a young single mother who rose out of poverty and built a successful career.

"Most people would identify with the fact that we tend to be defined by the struggles we came through than by the successes. And certainly for me that's true," she told the Morning News. "When I think about who I am and how it's reflected in the things I worked on, it comes from that place."

Davis raised a sizable $12 million last year, but she's still far behind from likely GOP nominee and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who took in $16 million and had $27 million cash on hand.

In the statement sent by her campaign, Davis dismissed attacks from her opponents over the Morning News article.

"(The attacks) won't work, because my story is the story of millions of Texas women who know the strength it takes when you're young, alone and a mother," she said.

Filed under: 2014 • Texas • Wendy Davis
soundoff (143 Responses)
  1. Mark

    Sounds like the lady has some problems with truth telling. But, then don't most politicians? In any event, you would think she would be a poster child for the pro-life movement. "Single mom" who single handedly raises a daughter while graduating from Harvard Law. But yet she has made herself a national advocate for abortion? Go figure.

    January 21, 2014 05:42 am at 5:42 am |
  2. mr sensitive

    I LOVE THIS WOMAN! I want her to have my children! No. really, IF I had Children – I would want her to raise them...

    January 21, 2014 05:47 am at 5:47 am |
  3. Mark

    Silence DoGood,

    if you will re-read the article, I believe it says she left him, so he filed for divorce after his wife deserted him. Wonder if she left the kids with him as well? In any event, she sounds like a good candidate for Hilary's VP in 2016.

    January 21, 2014 05:51 am at 5:51 am |
  4. destroyerofeconomies

    Lying democrats AGAIN.go figure

    January 21, 2014 05:59 am at 5:59 am |
  5. Rick Douglas

    I have a great idea: Let's find some people who aren't proven liars, then elect them to represent us.

    January 21, 2014 06:12 am at 6:12 am |
  6. Houni

    She lied to us then, she will lie to us now!

    January 21, 2014 06:17 am at 6:17 am |
  7. Irrational Exuberance

    She appears to have at least some problem with truthfulness. Lying even when honesty does not hurt her. She lies to make herself look more important, more accomplished, as though she has had a more difficult time than she actually did.

    Which only communicates to me she's a politician.

    January 21, 2014 06:18 am at 6:18 am |
  8. Steve- Illinois

    She merely has to reach into her past to find the strength to announce that she's 1/32 American Indian. Libs love "minorities" like Warren.

    January 21, 2014 06:34 am at 6:34 am |
  9. m.

    As a people ... we will know when we are finally doing something right when we start seeing massive numbers of lawyers lining up to file for bankruptcy and unemployment welfare.

    January 21, 2014 06:44 am at 6:44 am |
  10. KJ

    I agree with a point made in another comment. Davis' war chest is not substantial enough to win the race, and the voters who might put her in office do not turn out in large enough numbers to defeat the better funded and organized GOP candidate. This story, while interesting, is largely irrelevant.

    January 21, 2014 06:47 am at 6:47 am |
  11. Bryan

    Wow what a great personal story of a woman who owes everything to a man she cheated on

    January 21, 2014 06:59 am at 6:59 am |
  12. Austin Rozzell

    All the republicans reptiles, have come slithering out to attack her, that is their cold blooded nature.
    See how a strong female make them good ol boys wet their breaches. So many have sunk to the underbelly of the republican snake. Abbott, he is a bigger fool that Bush was. but I guess you are just to "third grade education" to do any better. It is a shame that this great state has had so many republican and religious fools move here, and destroy the great ideas this state was built on.

    January 21, 2014 07:14 am at 7:14 am |
  13. Logictox

    Wendy Davis is the biggest liar in Texas..................

    January 21, 2014 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  14. miguel

    Wendy went off to Harvard and left her kids with her husband.
    Her second husband supported her while she went to school
    Wendy cheated on him.
    Wendy left him right as he pad off her last student loan.
    Wendy did not get custody of the kids.
    Husband got a court order for Wendy to stop using drugs before visiting kids.

    This is the truth about Wendy.

    I stand with Abbott!

    January 21, 2014 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  15. hkdakota

    In other words she's a lying politician.

    January 21, 2014 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  16. Kevin White

    Lying has become part of her daily fiber. The voters of Texas should take note. If she lies about little things, then stand by, there will be more to come. I would kick her to the curb as her former husband did.

    January 21, 2014 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  17. Bob

    The truth has never seemed to matter much to Republicans. Why would it suddenly now?

    January 21, 2014 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
  18. Andy

    She is a pathological liar Period!!!!

    January 21, 2014 07:41 am at 7:41 am |
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