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Texas governor hopeful Wendy Davis questioned over her campaign biography

Davis’s characterization of her up-from-the-bootstraps life story challenged by Dallas Morning News

♦By Rich Shumate,

texas mugDALLAS (CFP) — State Senator Wendy Davis, the Democratic candidate for Texas governor, is clarifying her characterizations of her life story, after the Dallas Morning News published a story calling some of the details into question.

Texas State Senator Wendy Davis

Texas State Senator Wendy Davis

On the campaign trail, Davis has highlighted her past as a divorced teenage mother who lived in a trailer before working her way through Texas Christian University and Harvard Law School.

But in a January 18 story, the Dallas Morning News challenged some of the details of her biography:

  • Davis divorced at 21, not 19 as she has previously said, and lived in a trailer for only a few months after the divorce with her daughter, Amber, before moving into an apartment.
  • Three years later, she married for the second time, and her husband helped pay for the remainder of her education at TCU and law school at Harvard. Together, they had a second daughter, Dru.
  • She left her second husband, Jeff Davis, the day after the last payment was made on her student loans at Harvard, according to Jeff Davis.
  • When they divorced, Jeff Davis was granted custody of both daughters, and Wendy Davis was ordered to pay $1,200 in monthly child support.

After the story ran, Davis issued a statement clarifying some of the details of her life story. However, she defended overall impression left by her previous characterizations.

“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,” she said. “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.”

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott

Davis also accused her Republican opponent, Attorney General Greg Abbott, of instigating what she termed a political attack.

However, in a tweet, the author of the Dallas Morning News piece, Wayne Slater, denied that the Abbott campaign was behind the story.

“I talked to no — zero — Abbott people,” Slater said.

In her statement, Davis concedes that she was divorced at 21, not 19. However, she said she and her first husband separated when she was 19 and that she lived in a trailer with Amber until the divorce.

She also says that after she and Jeff Davis divorced, they shared custody of their daughters, although the younger daughter, Dru, lived with her ex-husband in their family home. The older daughter was already away at college.

She also says her ex-husband “helped her fulfill her dream of attending Harvard by cashing in a 401k and later they took out loans.”

“She and Jeff Davis have a healthy and respectful relationship based on their mutual love of their daughters,” the statement said.

Davis, 50, who represents a Fort Worth-area district in the Texas Senate, shot to fame last June when she led a more than 11-hour filibuster against an anti-abortion bill.

The bill would have prohibited bill abortions after 20 weeks, required abortion clinics to meet the same requirements as outpatient surgery centers and forced abortion doctors to get admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

Her filibuster ran out the clock on a special legislative session called by Governor Rick Perry. He promptly called another special session – which cost Texas taxpayers $800,000 – and the legislature passed the abortion restrictions, which are now being challenged in court.

Abbott, 56, a former justice on the Texas Supreme Court, is in his third term as attorney general. Given that no Democrat has won a statewide race since 1994, he starts the race as the prohibitive favorite.

Abbott also holds a huge fundraising advantage. Through the end of 2013, he had raised more than $27 million dollars, compared to $4.6 million for Davis, according to reports filed with the Texas Ethics Commission.

Perry, who has been governor since 2001, announced last summer that he would not seek re-election.

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