Relatively young and attractive, Texas politician Wendy Davis has made an impression by bringing yankee-style Democratic politics to the Texas state senate. Now, the ambitious blonde is aiming for the governor’s office in the traditionally Republican state. A major part of the image she’s running on is her self-made single teen mother story, which plays very well to elderly Northeastern Democrats, hence her favorable coverage in media outlets such as the NY Times. It helps, that she also has a degree from Harvard, but until recently the story behind how she got it has remained unchallenged.
First, she never was a single teen mother. In fact, she was married when she had her first child, and divorced her husband at the age of 21.
The candidate’s compelling life story begins with 14-year-old Wendy Russell working to help support her single mother in Tarrant County. While still a teenager, Davis married, had a child and divorced, she has said.
“I had a baby. I got divorced by the time I was 19 years old,” she testified in a recent federal lawsuit over redistricting. “After I got divorced, I lived in a mobile home park in southeast Fort Worth.”
“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.
“While he lived that passion, he never made money again and was never able to comply with the terms of my parents’ divorce,” she said. “What it meant for us financially is that things … completely turned upside down, and it was a real struggle. My brothers and I went to work young — and it was out of necessity, not about wanting to have a little bit of spending money.”
She was 17 and still in high school when she moved in with her boyfriend, a construction worker named Frank Underwood. She got pregnant, married and “some time between [age] 19 and 20 was when Frank and I separated,” she said.
Under terms of the divorce, he got a boat, the mobile home and the responsibility for the mortgage on it. She got a 3-year-old Pontiac Grand Prix, a 1972 Firebird and a 1967 Chevy pickup. Davis was 21.
Very soon after her divorce, her father introduced her to an older man named Jeff Davis. Mr. Davis, a 34-year-old lawyer, began dating her, and married her within a couple years, when she was 24 years old. By this time, she had enrolled at Texas Christian University, and her new husband paid her tuition at the college. After graduating, she was accepted into Harvard Law School, which Mr. Davis also funded by cashing in his 401(k) and taking out a loan. In the meanwhile, he worked hard and took care of her daughters back in Texas while she worked on her Harvard degree.
In the years after Wendy Davis graduated from Harvard, her husband continued to pay off the loan that put her through Harvard and to be a father to her children.
“I was a vibrant part of contributing to our family finances from the time I graduated to the time we separated in 2003,” she said. “The idea that suddenly there was this instantaneous departure after Jeff had partnered so beautifully with me in putting me through school is just absurd.”
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.”
Despite having little regard for her politics, I have no doubt that Ms. Davis is an intelligent, ambitious and talented woman. She may be an effective politician, and a good advocate for her constituents. However, the missing part of the narrative is that she got where she is today by stepping on the back of a man. A man she used for selfish purposes, then betrayed.