The two daughters of Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis, who has been in full push back mode since a report in The Dallas Morning News highlighted discrepancies in her biography, released detailed letters about their upbringing and relationship with their mother Tuesday, a clear sign that Davis’ campaign is on the defense over the more detailed account of her background.
Davis’s daughter, Dru, wrote that she hated feeling like she needed to write such a letter, “but I have been reading and hearing so many untrue things about my mom and I want to set the record straight.”
“And sadly I feel the need to be crystal clear on the malicious and false charge of abandonment as nothing could be further from the truth,” she wrote. “My mom has always shared equally in the care and custody of my sister and me.”
Wendy Davis, who is running for Texas governor, has been criticized, often in very personal terms, over her version of her early adult years, including details of her divorce and her depiction of herself as a struggling single mother who put herself through law school. The report and her critics have suggested, for instance, that Jeff Davis, the senator’s second husband, was awarded sole custody of Dru.
Yet Davis, her aides, and now her daughters have said that the Texas gubernatorial candidate was a constant presence in her daughter’s life, and in fact, had joint custody, even as Dru, now 25, remained with her father in the family home.
“I can tell you that my mom was a remarkable mother and continues to be so to this day. She was there on my first day of school and my last, and so many days in between,” Davis wrote. “She never missed a school performance or a parent-teacher conference. Even if that meant she had to miss something else important. My sister and I were always her first priority. She was there when I needed her and even when I thought I didn’t.”
Amber Davis, 31, Davis’s daughter from her first marriage, also wrote a letter:
“My name is Amber Davis and I am Wendy Davis’ oldest daughter. I have spent the past few days reading the ludicrous comments that people have shared on social media about my mother and our family,” she said. “It is a shame that those who don’t know us feel the need to comment on the details of our lives as if they’ve lived them. I have a hard time understanding how such hate and negativity can result from one person’s false accusations.”
The letters were included in a press release from Davis’s gubernatorial campaign.
Critics, among them Bristol Palin on her Twitter account, have suggested that Davis embellished parts of her story, exaggerating her struggle as a young mom for political gain—her background as a young, single mom who went on to graduate from Harvard Law School has been central to her appeal and candidacy. At issue, for instance, has been how long she actually lived in a trailer and how much financial help she had from her husband in paying for school.
“My mother had me when she was very young, a kid herself. And although she was married for a short period of time, parenthood was her sole responsibility. Yes, we lived in a trailer. Does it matter how long? Not to me,” Amber Davis wrote. “Even though some people have tried to question my own memories; I do remember the trailer, as well as the apartments that we lived in during the years that followed. I know that I was my mother’s first priority and that she wanted a better life for me than the one she was living. She worked 2 jobs and went to community college at night. She refused to repeat the life her family struggled in growing up.”
Davis supporters have suggested that the attacks are a sign of her strength as a candidate and could ultimately backfire.
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.
The letters come just after Davis sat for a television interview on Monday on Fusion with Jorge Ramos, where she addressed the question of whether she was misleading voters.
“Those allegations are really absurd, Jorge,” she said. “My life story is my life story. I am a young woman who had lived in poverty for many years before I was able to work and lift myself out of that place, and I know that there are Texans across the state that are facing the same challenges that I once faced.”