Davis defends life story, assails Abbott

AUSTIN — Facing questions about the story she tells of her journey from a struggling single mom in a trailer park to Harvard-educated lawyer, Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis went on the offensive Monday against Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, her expected general-election foe in the race for governor.

“I think this line of attack by Abbott and his campaign demonstrates that he is completely out of touch with the reality of the struggles that a young woman like I faced and like so many people across the state of Texas face today,” Davis said in an interview on Monday.

“I came from a place of struggle, and we can parse dates all day long,” she said by telephone.

Davis, D-Fort Worth, and Abbott are expected to win their party nominations in the March 4 primary election.

Abbott’s campaign has questioned details and pointed out discrepancies in her life story. Davis typically has given a shorthand version of her life story, which she casts as the inspiration for her desire to make sure other Texans have the same opportunity to get the education they need to better themselves.

Abbott spokesman Matt Hirsch contended in a statement that Davis “systematically, intentionally and repeatedly deceived Texans for years about her background, yet she expects voters to indulge her fanciful narrative.”

Among other points in her life story that have come into question, she has said her mother had only a 6th-grade education and described herself as a single mom at 19. Her divorce, however, wasn’t actually final until she was 21, although she said that she and her first husband separated earlier, when she was 19.

In addition, her mother went to school to the 9th grade. Davis said in an email from her campaign that she learned after calling her mother that she had made a mistake, and that it was her grandfather who had a 6th-grade education.

More broadly, as reported last year by the San Antonio Express-News/Houston Chronicle, her second marriage to a former Fort Worth City Council member didn’t play in the shorthand version of her life story. It occurred while she attended Texas Christian University and before she went to Harvard law school, easing her path financially. They partnered in raising her first daughter and had a daughter while she was at TCU.

When Davis was accepted to Harvard Law School, her husband said in an interview last year that he cashed in a 401(k) to help pay the cost. Although she took the girls with her to Harvard at first, they came back home to live with her then-husband. Wendy said in an interview last year that her mom became their nanny, and that at Harvard, Davis would arrange her schedule with the help of understanding professors so she could spend chunks of time at home with them.

In November 2003, Jeff Davis said she left — the same month a Harvard loan was paid off. The divorce was finalized in 2005.

Wendy stressed last year that she and her then-husband used their family resources to make her education possible because they thought it was “beneficial for our family” and that a loan that was taken out was repaid as a family.

Their daughter Dru, then in ninth grade, stayed with him when Wendy left, Jeff Davis said last year. Daughter Amber, who was attending college, moved back with them, he said. Sen. Davis said Monday that she respected her daughter’s need to be in her childhood home and that she remained an engaged mother.

pfikac@express-news.net

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