Wendy Davis (politician)
|Member of the Texas Senate
from the 10th district
January 9, 2009
|Preceded by||Kim Brimer|
|Member of the Fort Worth City Council
from the 9th district
May 1, 1999 – January 8, 2008
|Preceded by||Cathy Hirt|
|Succeeded by||Joel Burns|
|Born||Wendy Jean Russell
May 16, 1963
West Warwick, Rhode Island, U.S.
|Political party||Republican (Before 2006)
|Spouse(s)||Frank Underwood (1982–1984)
Jeff Davis (1987–2005)
|Alma mater||Tarrant County College
Texas Christian University
Wendy Russell Davis (born Wendy Jean Russell, May 16, 1963) is an American lawyer and Democratic politician from Fort Worth, Texas. She is her party's gubernatorial nominee in the November 4, 2014 general election. Davis represents District 10 in the Texas Senate. She previously served on the Fort Worth city council.
On June 25, 2013, Davis held an eleven-hour-long filibuster to block Senate Bill 5, a measure which included more restrictive abortion regulations for Texas. The filibuster played a major role in Senate Democrats' success in delaying passage of the bill beyond the midnight deadline for the end of the legislative session, though it ultimately passed in a second session. The filibuster brought Davis national attention, leading to speculation about a run for governor. In October 2013, she announced that she would run for governor in 2014 to succeed the retiring Republican Rick Perry.
- 1 Early life, education, and family
- 2 Law career
- 3 Political career
- 4 Political positions
- 5 Electoral history
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Early life, education, and family
Wendy Davis was born Wendy Jean Russell in West Warwick, Rhode Island, the daughter of Virginia "Ginger" (née Cornstubble) and Jerry Russell. Her family moved to Fort Worth, Texas in 1973, when she was 11 years old. At the time, Jerry worked at National Cash Register. When Wendy was 13 years old, her parents divorced. Jerry quit his job to pursue work in community theater, leading his child support payments to dry up. Ginger, who had a ninth grade education, supported her four children by working menial jobs, including one at a Braum's ice cream shop.
By the time that Wendy was fourteen, she was selling newspaper subscriptions for The Fort Worth Star-Telegram and working at an Orange Julius. When she was seventeen and still in high school, she moved in with her boyfriend, construction worker Frank Underwood. In 1981, she graduated from Richland High School as a member of the National Honor Society. She married Underwood on January 24, 1982, at age 18, shortly after discovering that she was pregnant. She gave birth to her first daughter, Amber, later that year. When Davis was nineteen, she and Underwood separated, and she continued to live in their mobile home alone with Amber. After several months, she moved in with her mother, and then eventually began living in her own apartment.
Wendy attended University of Texas at Arlington for one semester, but had to stop attending for financial reasons. Meanwhile, her father had opened the European Sandwich Shop and Stage Door Deli in downtown Fort Worth, with his Stage West Theatre next door. It was while waiting tables at Stage West in 1983 that Wendy was introduced by her father to lawyer and former city councilman Jeffry R. Davis, who would become her second husband. Wendy filed for divorce from Underwood in December 1983, and the divorce became official on May 22, 1984, when she was 21 years old. Wendy was given custody of Amber, with Underwood paying child support.
Wendy also worked as a receptionist at a doctor's office, where a nurse gave her a brochure for Tarrant County College. She enrolled in their two-year paralegal program, attending from 1984 to 1986. Wendy began dating Jeff Davis during this time. After Tarrant College, she enrolled at Texas Christian University (TCU) in 1986 on an academic scholarship and a Pell Grant. Wendy and Jeff married on May 30, 1987 after dating for "two or three years," and they settled in a historic home in the Mistletoe Heights neighborhood of Fort Worth. After the marriage, Jeff began to make significant financial contributions to Wendy's education. He would ultimately adopt her daughter, Amber. A second daughter, Dru, was born in September 1988. In May 1990, Wendy graduated from TCU at the top of her class, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.
That fall, Wendy moved with her daughters to Lexington, Massachusetts, to attend Harvard Law School. This living situation proved untenable, and after four months her daughters returned to Texas to live with Jeff. Wendy's mother helped to care for them, and Wendy flew back regularly to visit her family for the remainder of her time at Harvard. While at Harvard, she volunteered at a legal clinic for the poor, where she helped AIDS patients write living wills, and surviving partners with their legal rights. In May 1993, she earned her law degree cum laude, and she was admitted to the State Bar of Texas in November 1993.
In November 2003, with 15-year-old Dru still living in the house, Wendy moved out. When the divorce settlement was finalized in 2005, the former couple shared "joint conservatorship" over Dru, who primarily lived with Jeff in the family home. In the divorce settlement, Jeff was given the "right to designate the primary residence" of Dru, and Wendy agreed to pay $1,200 a month in child support. Both parents retained the right to decisions about Dru's other needs. Amber was a young adult in college the time of the divorce.
After graduating from law school, Davis served a federal clerkship fron 1993 to 1994 under Judge Jerry Buchmeyer, a U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Texas in Dallas. In 1994, she joined the Fort Worth office of Haynes & Boone and began practicing specialized litigation. She quit Haynes & Boone in "about two years". In 1999, her husband, Jeff Davis started Safeco Title Co. of Fort Worth, Texas. and she became part owner. The title company was sold to Republic Title as part of their divorce decree. She continued to work at the Fort Worth branch of Republic Title until 2009. Davis joined Cantey Hanger in an Of Counsel role in March 2010. Davis' of counsel relationship with Cantey Hanger ended on December 31, 2013. She partnered with Brian Newby to open Newby Davis, PLLC in March 2010. Her current practice includes federal and local governmental affairs, litigation, economic development, contract compliance and real estate matters.
During her time working for the title company Safeco, Wendy was paid an annual salary of $40,000 by her husband Jeff Davis. Jeff Davis told Robert Draper of The New York Times that he paid her the salary for her work for the city of Fort Worth as a council member, a job that paid little.
Davis first ran for the Fort Worth City Council in 1996, but was defeated by ninety votes. After her defeat, Davis sued the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, American Broadcasting Company, and the Disney Company, which at the time owned the Star-Telegram and ABC. The Texas Tribune stated that she alleged "that biased coverage led to her defeat and caused injury to her physical and mental health". Her claims were rejected by the Texas courts, based upon the Star-Telegram's First Amendment free speech grounds.
Davis was first elected to the city council in 1999. During her nine-year tenure there, Davis focused on transportation, economic development, and neighborhood issues. She also worked on economic development projects, such as the Montgomery Plaza renovation, the Tower, Pier One and Radio Shack campuses.
While serving on the Fort Worth City Council, Davis voted in Republican primaries. Davis has said that she was then a Republican because she liked Republican Congresswoman Kay Granger of Fort Worth, and she wanted to vote on judicial nominees in Republican primaries. She voted in the Republican primaries in 1996, 1998 and 2006 and she has given $1,500 to Granger. Also, in April 1999, she gave $250 to former Republican President George W. Bush's first presidential campaign.
Davis represents Texas Senate, District 10, which includes portions of Tarrant County, Texas. In 2008, she defeated incumbent Republican Senator Kim Brimer for the seat, despite a legal challenge against her candidacy by the state Republican Party. Davis was re-elected in 2012, defeating a challenge from Mark Shelton, a Fort Worth pediatrician and Republican member of the Texas House of Representatives. Davis is the Vice-Chair on the Senate Select Committee on Open Government. She is also a Member of the Senate Committee on Economic Development, the Senate Committee on Transportation, and the Veteran Affairs and Military Installations Committee. She previously served on the Senate Committee for Education and as Vice-Chair on the Senate Committee on International Relations and Trade.
Davis has been honored with awards and recognitions during her first term in the Texas Legislature, including the "Bold Woman Award" from Girls, Inc., "Freshman of the Year" from AARP, "Champion for Children Award" from the Equity Center, and "Texas Women's Health Champion Award" from the Texas Association of OB-GYNs. In 2009, Texas Monthly named her "Rookie of the Year". She was also chosen by the readers of Fort Worth Weekly as the "Best Servant of the People". In January 2012, Davis was listed among "12 State Legislators to Watch in 2012" by Governing Magazine and was mentioned as a possible candidate for statewide races.
Early in the 83rd Session, senators drew for terms in a post-redistricting, once-a-decade process. Davis drew a two-year term and will be up for re-election in November 2014. In March 2013, she announced her intention to run for re-election to the Senate. On October 3, 2013, she changed her mind and announced a candidacy for Texas Governor instead of re-election to the State Senate.
On June 25, 2013, Davis began a filibuster to block the Senate Bill 5, "the bill would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, require abortion clinics to meet the same standards that hospital-style surgical centers do, and mandate that a doctor who performs abortions have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital." She attempted to maintain the floor until midnight, when the Senate's special session ended, after which the state Senate would no longer be able to vote on the measure. Following an 11-hour filibuster – three hours short of midnight – Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst ruled that Davis had gone off topic, forcing a vote on whether the filibuster could continue. Despite Republican efforts, parliamentary inquiries from Leticia R. Van de Putte and others as well as raucous cheering and yelling from the political activists gathered in the Capitol carried on through midnight and the close of the special session. Following the deadline, Republicans indicated that a vote had taken place and passed, while Democrats declared that the vote had taken place after midnight, making it void. Dewhurst later conceded that the bill was dead. On the 26th, Governor Rick Perry added the bill as part of three bills in a second special session to be debated again. The bill was eventually passed by both the House and the Senate in the July 2013 second special session, prompting one commentator to state that "Wendy Davis won the battle, but Rick Perry won the war." The bill was signed by Gov. Rick Perry on July 18, 2013.
The filibuster attracted national attention, including in The New York Times and The Washington Post. National fundraising by and speculation about a gubernatorial run for Davis also followed. Davis has been encouraged to run by groups like Battleground Texas and EMILY's List.
Campaign for Governor of Texas
|This section requires expansion. (February 2014)|
On October 3, 2013, Davis announced her intention to run for Governor of Texas in the 2014 election. On March 4, 2014, she won the Democratic nomination, having polled 432,065 votes (79.1 percent) to her lone challenger, Reynaldo "Ray" Madrigal, who received 114,458 votes (20.9 percent). Davis is the first female nominee for Texas governor since Ann Richards was defeated in 1994 by George W. Bush. In the general election on November 4, 2014 she faces Republican nominee Greg Abbott, the outgoing state attorney general, who polled 1,219,903 votes (91.5 percent) in his gubernatorial primary election on March 4.
In January 2014, it was reported that elements of Davis' life story, which she had used to define herself politically, were inaccurate or incomplete. For example, the timeline of her first marriage and divorce were vague, and the fact that her second husband made significant financial contributions to her education was downplayed. She acknowledged the errors and said, "My language should be tighter. I’m learning about using broader, looser language. I need to be more focused on the detail."
Upon examining Davis' voting record over her three terms in the Texas Senate, Mark P. Jones, the Chairman of the Department of Political Science at Rice University in Houston, concluded that Davis was the fourth-most liberal senator out of the 31 state senators (including Davis) that served in at least two of the three terms Davis had served in. Jones found that she was "significantly more liberal" than John Whitmire, Juan Hinojosa, Carlos Uresti, and Eddie Lucio, Jr., who represent the centrist wing of the Texas Senate Democrats, "significantly more conservative" than José R. Rodríguez, the most liberal Texas Senate Democrat, and "statistically indistinguishable" from the other six Texas Senate Democrats.
In 2009 and 2011, Davis voted against a bill that requires physicians to perform a sonogram on and provide other information to abortion patients prior to an abortion. In 2011, she would also vote against a bill that requires an ultrasound prior to an abortion.
On June 25, 2013, she held an eleven hour long filibuster to block Senate Bill 5, a measure which included more restrictive abortion regulations for Texas. The filibuster played a major role in Senate Democrats' efforts to delay passage of the bill beyond the midnight deadline for the end of the legislative session, though it ultimately passed in a second session. On August 5, 2013, when asked about what legal limits on abortion she would support, she replied, "You know, the Supreme Court has made that decision. And it’s one of the protected liberties under our Constitution. And I respect the constitutional protections that are in place today." In October 2013, campaign spokesman Bo Delp told Politifact by email it’s incorrect to say Davis opposes any limits. "Like most Texans, Sen. Davis opposes late-term abortions except when the life or health of the mother is endangered, in cases of rape or incest or in the case of severe and irreversible fetal abnormalities," Delp said. Also in October 2013, EMILY's List endorsed Wendy Davis for Governor in 2014.
On February 11, 2014, Davis said that she would have supported a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, if the law adequately deferred to a woman and her doctor. She said she found the ban on abortions after 20 weeks to be the “least objectionable” provision in the abortion bill she filibustered last year.
While on the Fort Worth City Council, Davis supported gun restrictions, including for gun shows at city facilities.
In 2011, she voted against a bill that authorizes concealed handgun permit holders to carry concealed handguns while on the campus of an institution of higher education.
In 2013, she voted for a bill establishing certain tax exemptions for firearms manufacturers, along with a bill that authorizes certain university students to transport a licensed handgun or ammunition in a locked motor vehicle on a college or university campus.
On February 6, 2014, she expressed support for a proposed open carry gun law in Texas, which is currently banned under Texas state law. The state senator from Fort Worth said such a law should allow private property owners to determine whether weapons could be openly carried on their property. She also said background checks and training requirements would "help ensure that only mentally stable, law-abiding citizens may carry, whether concealed or open." She later said that she believes municipalities should be able to decide whether the proposed open carry and existing concealed carry laws should be used in their limits.
In 2000, Davis voted for Forth Worth's nondiscrimination ordinance based on sexual orientation.
In 2011, she authored the only LGBT-inclusive version of anti-bullying legislation and co-sponsored youth suicide prevention legislation and lobbied to kill an anti-transgender marriage bill.
In 2013, she co-authored the Senate version of a statewide workplace nondiscrimination bill, co-authored inclusive insurance nondiscrimination legislation, and she was one of only two senators to voted against an anti-trans marriage bill.
In January 2014, Human Rights Campaign endorsed Wendy Davis for Governor in 2014. On February 13, 2014, she expressed support for same-sex marriage and said that Attorney General Greg Abbott, her presumed general-election opponent in the race for governor, should stop defending the state's ban on same-sex marriage.
On February 11, 2014, Davis expressed support for decriminalizing marijuana. She said she would back legislation to decrease criminal provisions for possession of small amounts of marijuana and believes medical marijuana should be left to the voters.
She lost her first race for Fort Worth City Council in 1996, but after her election in 1999 she served a nine-year tenure in the Fort Worth City Council. Davis ran unopposed in the 2001 and 2005 general elections. Her Texas State Senate career began in 2008, when she unseated by a margin of two percentage points the Republican incumbent, Kim Brimer. She was reelected in 2012.
Wendy Davis electoral history
City council elections
State senate elections
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- Official website
- Senator Wendy Davis: District 10 at The Senate of Texas
- The Honorable Wendy R. Davis constituency site
- Biography, voting record, and interest group ratings at Project Vote Smart
- State Sen. Wendy Davis at The Texas Tribune
|Member of the Texas Senate
from the 10th district
|Party political offices|
|Democratic nominee for Governor of Texas