Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis, who is running for governor of Texas, has admitted that some of the public details about her personal history are incomplete or inaccurate, according to a report in the Dallas Morning News.
Davis, a rising Democratic star, has touted herself as a Texas success story. She has said she was a divorced teenage mother who went from living in a mobile home, juggling low-wage jobs and going to community college to graduating from Harvard Law School.
The up-from-nowhere narrative, which emerged during an 11-hour filibuster she staged in June to oppose abortion restrictions, has been a central part of her candidacy and appeal, helping to boost her national profile and fundraising efforts.
But the Dallas Morning News reveals a more complicated narrative.
According to the paper, Davis was not a divorced working mother living in a mobile home at age 19. Instead, she was 21, and lived in a trailer for a short time. Then after a stint living with her mother, Davis moved into her own apartment.
At 24, she married Jeff Davis, a lawyer who, according to the report, helped pay for her final two years of college and cashed out his 401(k) and took out loans to help finance her Harvard law degree.
The marriage eventually ended in divorce, with Jeff Davis getting custody of the couple’s youngest daughter and Wendy Davis paying monthly child support.
In an extensive interview with the paper, Davis said she had focused on general themes in her personal history, rather than being precise.
“My language should be tighter,” she said. “I’m learning about using broader, looser language. I need to be more focused on the detail.”
She added: “Most people would identify with the fact that we tend to be defined by the struggles we came through [rather] than by the successes. And certainly for me that’s true,” she said. “When I think about who I am and how it’s reflected in the things I worked on, it comes from that place.”
Davis has raised $12 million for her gubernatorial campaign, but she is trailing in her likely match-up against Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, who has raised about $27 million.
She recently hired Joel Benenson, President Obama’s chief pollster.
A November poll by the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune showed the race within single digits — Abbott garnered 40 percent of registered voters, while Davis got 34 percent and 25 percent were undecided.
Update: Wendy Davis, who is quoted in the Dallas Morning News article, has released this statement in response to the article:
“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.”