Wendy Davis rose to national prominence when she conducted a filibuster to block a Texas bill restricting non-medically necessary abortions after 20-weeks. For that position, which is wildly unpopular, Davis became the next Elizabeth Warren — the Great White Hope in pink sneakers.
Erick Erickson dubbed her “Abortion Barbie,” which led to howls of sexism. But as I explained in Why is “Abortion Barbie” off limits for Wendy Davis?, Barbie and Ken analogies in politics are quite common. Erickson’s remark was directed not at Davis’ gender, but her self-professed ignorance of the Kermit Gosnell House of Abortion Horrors. That someone running on a pro-late term abortion platform didn’t know about the biggest abortion story of the year made her look, well, like a plastic impression.
Like Elizabeth Warren, whose life story does not hold up to scrutiny, Davis appears to have narrative problems, as detailed today by The Dallas Morning News, As Wendy Davis touts life story in race for governor, key facts blurred:
Wendy Davis has made her personal story of struggle and success a centerpiece of her campaign to become the first Democrat elected governor of Texas in almost a quarter-century.
While her state Senate filibuster last year captured national attention, it is her biography — a divorced teenage mother living in a trailer who earned her way to Harvard and political achievement — that her team is using to attract voters and boost fundraising.
The basic elements of the narrative are true, but the full story of Davis’ life is more complicated, as often happens when public figures aim to define themselves. In the shorthand version that has developed, some facts have been blurred.
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.
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.
In an extensive interview last week, Davis acknowledged some chronological errors and incomplete details in what she and her aides have said about her life.
“My language should be tighter,” she said. “I’m learning about using broader, looser language. I need to be more focused on the detail.”
To summarize the rest of the article, which of course you should read in full, her second husband paid her way through her last two years of college and all of Harvard Law School, he raised their two daughters for whom she didn’t even fight for custody. She left her husband the day after he made her last student loan payment:
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….
Over time, the Davises’ marriage was strained. In November 2003, Wendy Davis moved out.
Jeff Davis said that was right around the time the final payment on their Harvard Law School loan was due. “It was ironic,” he said. “I made the last payment, and it was the next day she left.”
Not exactly the story her campaign previously told, as the Dallas Morning News pointed out:
“With the help of academic scholarships and student loans, Wendy not only became the first person in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree but graduated first in her class and was accepted to Harvard Law School,” her website says.
Will it matter? A misleading personal narrative didn’t hurt Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts and doesn’t hurt her among progressives because they don’t care any more than they cared about Bill Clinton abusing his power over a young female intern to elicit sexual favors.
But Texas isn’t Massachusetts, and the Texas electorate doesn’t sleep with copies of The Nation and Mother Jones under their pillows.
Here’s how one of her supporters describes her:
A former colleague and political supporter who worked closely with Davis when she was on the council said the body’s work was very time-consuming.
“Wendy is tremendously ambitious,” he said, speaking only on condition of anonymity in order to give what he called an honest assessment. “She’s not going to let family or raising children or anything else get in her way.”
Then there’s this little tidbit dropped by the Dallas Morning News:
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.”
We have a lot of Texas readers here. How’s that true narrative going to play?
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