Davis's campaign is facing its first test in crisis management
after the Dallas Morning News in the past week published reports
questioning details of how Davis, a state senator, went from teenage
mother in a Texas trailer park to Harvard Law School graduate.
The campaign's response could determine if it can make the November
race against Republican favorite Greg Abbott competitive or if
Davis, who stepped into the national spotlight last year, will be
swept away in a landslide, like many Democratic challengers before
her. Democrats have not won a statewide race in Texas since 1994.
"It is going to be a speed bump if she handles it well," said Cal
Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist
University in Dallas.
Abbott, the state's attorney general, has so far kept quiet about
the controversy, but Jillson said Abbott's team has been researching
Davis's past and could make some questionable details an issue if
the race becomes close.
Davis, 50, gained national standing in 2013 when she donned pink
running shoes and staged a dramatic 10-hour filibuster at the Texas
Statehouse against sweeping abortion restrictions.
The event made her a darling of Texas Democrats who felt the
filibuster, seen by millions on TV news and through Internet
streaming, combined with her personal story would propel her into
one of the most appealing candidates for governor the party has had
But now the Dallas Morning News has questioned when Davis divorced
her first husband, saying it was when she was 21 and not 19 as she
had said in her official campaign bio.
It also questioned how long Davis lived in a trailer park, saying it
was just a few months, though her bio implied it was much longer.
The paper also said her second husband, attorney Jeff Davis, from
whom she is now divorced, played a greater role than had been
acknowledged by the candidate in raising Davis's children — a
daughter that the couple had together and Davis's daughter from her
first marriage — and financing Davis's education at Texas Christian
University and Harvard Law.
[to top of second column]
"A DAY IN MY SHOES"
In an extensive interview last week, Davis acknowledged some
chronological errors and incomplete details in what she and her
aides have said about her life, the Dallas Morning News said.
Davis told the paper there were errors and the language for her
biography "should be tighter."
She later said in a statement: "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."
Abbott is expected to win the governor's race, but if Davis can keep
the margin of victory to less than 10 percentage points, it could
enliven the Democrats as demographic numbers shift in its favor,
Under current projections, the state's Hispanic population could
become the majority by around 2030, potentially tipping the
political balance in the Republican state to the Democrats.
Davis came out strong in the early stages of the campaign. She
raised $12.2 million from July to December 2013, outpacing Abbott
during the same period, according to funding data the campaigns
released this month.
The last major statewide poll, released in November, showed Abbott
leading Davis by 5 to 6 percentage points. The poll was conducted by
the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune.
"Davis has made her life story the fundamental part of her
campaign," said Mark Jones, the chair of Rice University's political
science department. "The more holes that are punched in this story,
the more trouble it causes for her."
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; editing by Scott Malone and Leslie
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