Following the news that state Senator Wendy Davis raised over $12.2 million during the last 6 months of 2013, while Attorney General Greg Abbott only raised $11.5 million, Texas Republicans seem to know that there's a real danger that they will lose the governor's mansion this year. The kind of vitriol that has been reserved for other high profile female Democrats, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, is now being unleashed on Wendy Davis. In addition to calling Davis "Abortion Barbie" because of her filibuster on behalf of women's reproductive rights, the Texas GOP has launched a smear campaign to take charge of the narrative and put their preferred spin on her personal story:
Davis was 21, not 19, when she was divorced. She lived only a few months in the family mobile home while separated from her husband before moving into an apartment with her daughter.So they're suggesting that she's a twice-divorced liar and a bad mother, among other things. Why would this be important to do?
A single mother working two jobs, she met Jeff Davis, a lawyer 13 years older than her, married him and had a second daughter. He paid for her last two years at Texas Christian University and her time at Harvard Law School, and kept their two daughters while she was in Boston. When they divorced in 2005, he was granted parental custody, and the girls stayed with him. Wendy Davis was directed to pay child support.
Using her story to inspire new voters, particularly women, youths and minorities, is a key part of the [Davis] campaign’s strategy to overcome the state’s heavy Republican bent.Or the Abbott campaign can count on a major Texas newspaper to do their dirty work for them, as the columnist above just did. Anyway, given the Texas Republicans' determined war on women, I doubt that they're going to abandon this line of personal attacks anytime soon.
But likely Republican nominee Greg Abbott and his allies are expected to focus on different details to tell voters a competing story. Some will question how much of her success was her own doing, and how bad her circumstances were to start.
Well, the Wendy Davis campaign just sent out an open letter (my emphasis):
Dear Friend,Photo by Tanene Allison, Texas Democratic Party Communications Director
As our campaign has gained momentum, our opponents have gotten more and more desperate. But now they’ve stooped to a new low by attacking my family, my education, and my personal story – playing politics with the journey that has been my life.
Mine is a story about a teenage single mother who struggled to keep her young family afloat. It’s a story about a young woman who was given a precious opportunity to work her way up in the world. It’s a story about resiliency, and sacrifice, and perseverance.
And you’re damn right it’s a true story.
Throughout this campaign, I’ve shared that story – not because it’s unique, but because it isn’t.
The story of my life is also the story of millions of single mothers who feel alone in the world, millions of young dreamers searching for their chance to become something more than what they were born into, millions of families all across Texas who would sacrifice everything to give their children a better future.
It’s those stories – your stories – that drive my campaign. But Greg Abbott and his allies don’t want to hear them. They don’t have anything to offer Texans who find themselves in the same difficult situation I was in when I was young. They would slam the doors I walked through and pull up the ladders I was lucky to be able to climb.
And now, instead of offering real ideas to improve your life, they’re attacking mine.
It won’t work. The only thing Greg Abbott and his allies have proved with these desperate attacks is that they don’t understand what it means to live a life like mine – a life like that of so many people all across our state.
They don’t know me – and, what’s more important, they don’t know you.
I’m not surprised that the Abbott campaign would resort to attacking the story of a single mother who worked hard to get ahead.
And I’m not afraid of their false attacks – I developed thick skin long before anyone knew my name.
What I am is deeply proud of the life I’ve built and the daughters I’ve raised – and deeply grateful to the many, many people who have shared their stories and offered their support as I’ve traveled our state.
No false attack can take away my story. And no sleazy political trick will stop me from giving voice to yours.
Your stories are why I’m running for Governor. And together, I know we’ll make sure that the Texas we leave to our children is a place where every young mother can build a better life for her child. . . where every family can work their way up the economic ladder. . . where every Texan can achieve their dreams and live out their own success story.
If you run across attempts to smear Wendy based on her personal story at this site, here's the full statement that Wendy Davis' campaign released late yesterday:
Let's stand with Wendy. Let's get her lots of signatures of support and send a message to the Texas GOP that they shouldn't mess with Wendy. And only if you have some money to spare, please donate through her campaign site or through ActBlue.
STATEMENT BY WENDY DAVISJanuary 20, 2014
We’re not surprised by Greg Abbott’s campaign attacks on the personal story of my life as a single mother who worked hard to get ahead. But they 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.
I’ve always been open about my life not because my story is unique, but because it isn’t.
The truth is that at age 19, I was a teenage mother living alone with my daughter in a trailer and struggling to keep us afloat on my way to a divorce. And I knew then that I was going to have to work my way up and out of that life if I was going to give my daughter a better life and a better future and that’s what I’ve done. I am proud of where I came from and I am proud of what I’ve been able to achieve through hard work and perseverance. And I guarantee you that anyone who tries to say otherwise hasn’t walked a day in my shoes.
Wendy Davis Early Biography
Note: I converted the PDF file to text for this diary. Here's a link to that PDF.
- Wendy Davis’ parents separated for the final time when she was 11, and they were
divorced by the time she was 13 years old. Even though the divorce settlement
called for child support, Wendy’s father was not able to provide significant income for
- Wendy and her siblings were raised primarily by her mother, who had attended
school only into the ninth grade, and whose own father had only a sixth grade
education. Wendy’s mother worked at a Braum’s ice cream store to support the
family. Wendy started working at age 14 to join her siblings in the support of the
- Despite the financial struggles at home, Wendy was a good student and attempted
to attend to college after graduating high school. She was unable, however, to make
ends meet economically, and left believing that a college education was just not
available to her.
- 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. 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.
- After learning about flexible class options from a Tarrant County College brochure,
Wendy discovered that she could get back into college. She moved into an
apartment with Amber and began attending classes while working multiple jobs.
- Tarrant County College gave her a gateway to higher education. She excelled in
classes as she worked hard. She did well enough to get into Texas Christian
University, which she attended with the help of financial aid and scholarships.
- While working at her father’s dinner theater during college, Wendy met and later
married Jeff Davis, a Fort Worth attorney. While married to Jeff Davis, Wendy had
her second daughter Dru and continued to excel academically. She graduated first
in her class from TCU. Wendy applied and was accepted to Harvard Law School.
As Wendy has said before, Jeff helped her fulfill her dream of attending Harvard by
cashing in a 401k and later they took out loans.
- While at Harvard, Wendy and Jeff arranged her schedule and that of her daughters,
Amber and Dru, so that they could be together often. The girls lived in Boston during
Wendy’s first year. In subsequent semesters, Wendy commuted weekly and
Wendy's mother played a daily caretaking role to assist the family.
- Following her graduation from Harvard, Wendy came home to Texas, completed a
judicial clerkship, worked as a successful attorney at the law firm Haynes and Boone
and later worked as an officer in their family’s title company.
- Ultimately, Wendy’s marriage to Jeff failed. The couple separated and shared
custody of Dru who was still a minor. Dru lived in the family home with Jeff. After
sometimes contentious proceedings, the divorce from Jeff became final and the two
parents shared custody of their daughters Amber and Dru. Wendy was constantly
present and sharing in the support and raising of her daughters as they grew up,
attended college and have taken on jobs of their own.
- Wendy and her daughters remain very close. She and Jeff Davis have a healthy
and respectful relationship based on their mutual love of their daughters.