Davis and Trailergate: Part campaign flub, part gender bias

Posted Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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kennedy Wendy Davis is bigger than Texas now, and so are her mistakes.

If Republicans can’t keep their hold on Texas, they’ll never win back the White House. So every Davis misstep or misfire becomes early national campaign fodder for 2016.

That’s why, almost 20 years into her local political career, we are suddenly worried about exactly how long in 1982 the Democratic gubernatorial candidate and her newborn daughter lived in a Southeast Loop 820 mobile home park. And we’re parsing her Richland-Hills-to-riches story about a teen mother who divorced, remarried and became a wealthy title company lawyer.

Until now, not one of her often bitter political opponents ever asked whether she was truly a “single” teen mother in 1982 or only “separated” from her husband. Nor did anyone criticize her parenting of two daughters or air allegations from a divorce.

Now, she’s important enough for reporters to double-check facts in her still-too-vague campaign biography and for national Republican bloggers to rise up in finger-shaking condemnation.

She’s even important enough for The Dallas Morning News to quote anonymous comments such as one from a supporter described as a colleague who knew her from her Fort Worth City Council days.

He called Davis “tremendously ambitious” and said: “She’s not going to let family or raising children or anything else get in her way. … She’s going to figure out a way to spin herself in a way that grabs at the heartstrings.”

I found another colleague from her City Council days who agreed to talk about Davis.

Becky Haskin let me quote her by name. She is a Republican.

“What that comment really tells you is how hard Wendy works,” Haskin said Tuesday as networks went national with the “Wendy-Flubbed-Bio” story.

Haskin remembers the mobile home story the same way I do, as a setup line and not a campaign theme.

Davis would often say she “found myself at 19, with a newborn, living in a mobile home.” All true.

But until lately, there were no interviews in Lakeview Mobile Home Park.

“She did what she had to do for her daughters,” said Haskin, a seven-year council colleague and ally.

Haskin was on the council during Davis’ 2003 separation and 2005 divorce from title company lawyer Jeff Davis, who once represented Haskin’s east-side council district.

As far as Davis’ sometimes-long-distance parenting or custodial role after the divorce, Haskin’s comments were succinct.

“If this involved a man running for office, none of this would ever come up,” she said.

“It’s so sad. Every time I ran, somebody said I needed to be home with my kids. Nobody ever talks about men being responsible parents.”

Haskin has endorsed other Republicans this cycle but said she will support Davis.

“It’s fun to watch the people in this race scrambling,” Haskin said.

“They wouldn’t be talking about Wendy if she weren’t a threat.”

She gives us plenty to talk about.

Bud Kennedy’s column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538 Twitter: @BudKennedy

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