Texas Democrat Wendy Davis runs into trouble over 'fanciful' life story in race for state governor

 

Dallas

Wendy Davis, the Texas State Senator who shot to political fame with her filibuster last year against new curbs on abortion, is fighting to protect her nascent bid for governor amidst savage, deeply personal attacks from the conservative right after small discrepancies emerged in her much touted hard-scrabble life story.

It is a nasty, Texas-sized storm that has national implications as Republicans fend off charges of sexist and misogynistic attitudes, underscored when former presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee averred last week that Democrats are committed to assuring access to contraception for women who “can’t control their libido”.

Democrats have not won state-wide office in Texas for two decades and are pining for the Davis campaign to succeed. At the heart of it was the gutsy story of a single, trailer-home mum who was divorced at 19 and yet managed to haul herself up all the way to Harvard and a successful career in public service back home.

But she was knocked off balance when a Dallas paper reported that in fact she was separated from her first husband at 19 and divorced him at 21, lived in the trailer for just six months and was able to borrow money to go to Harvard from her second husband, to whom she also gave custody of her two young children when she left to study.

Conservative piled on as one. Ms Davis has been variously branded a bad mother, a fraud and a liar. “Abortion Barbie had a Sugar Daddy Ken,” tweeted Fox News pundit Erick Erickson. Rush Limbaugh called her a “fake” while her likely Republican opponent, State Attorney General Greg Abbot, told voters not to “indulge her fanciful narrative”.

This weekend the campaign got out of its crouch and hit back. “They’re getting desperate,” Davis campaign manager Karin Johanson said in an email, adding that Republicans would “try anything, including the typical dirty tricks we’re all tired of” to bring Davis down.

What damage has been done is hard to gauge. Ms Davis was already facing long odds and was relying heavily on her life-story to bring new voters to the booths, including the fast-growing Hispanic community here, and to peel off a good number of women who would normally vote Republican.

But spirits were high at a meeting of Democrats at Smith Chapel on the south side of Dallas on Saturday. Darling Ewing, the Democrat Party chairperson for Dallas County, said the attacks will come back to bite the Republicans. “They are hung up on this ticky-tacky, nitpicking direction that has no meaning in the real world,” she said. “Does it matter if she was divorced at 19 or 21? She was young and she was a single mother.” And she accused Republicans of double standards. “If she had stayed home and put her husband through law school and he left home do you think we would be hearing the same things about him? I don’t think so.”

For Ms Davis, who represents Fort Worth in the legislature, the typhoon of the last seven days may in fact represent a form of flattery. It started, interestingly, just days after her campaign revealed unexpectedly strong fund-raising even outpacing Mr Abbott’s, numbers that had clearly caught everyone’s attention.

Ms Ewing believes Davis can still win. “It’s going to take a perfect storm of factors all coming together. But she has really energised the Democratic base because this is our chance at last to loosen the shackles that the Republican state legislature has put on us.” Then she quipped: “If the Republicans let Huckabee keep talking we will be fine.”

News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
arts + entsBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
News
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features playground gun massacre
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Travel
travel
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
people
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Hydraulic Power Pack Design Engineer

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I recruit for contract mechanical design...

SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

SCO Supervisor Electrical

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client based in the Midlands is looki...

Ecommerce Executive

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Ecommerce Executive Working with an...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices