Wendy Davis has plenty of scandal on her plate: the biographical lies, the ethics investigation, the seemingly years-long loyalty to the Republican Party. Last week, she suddenly revealed that she was campaigning on a pro-gun rights platform, but her photo-op with a gun earlier this week is not doing her any favors.
The incident occurred at an event last Tuesday with Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, daughter of former Democratic Texas Governor Ann Richards. While the event did not explicitly mention abortion, opting instead for rallying statements on how Davis would be a great governor for the state, the younger Richards’ presence at the event made many onlookers in Texas politics wonder whether Davis was dangerously close to branding herself a “one-issue candidate.”
Davis managed to eclipse the abortion aspect of her campaign, however. The Dallas Morning News report notes that much of her speaking time was devoted to the other thing Davis is nationally known for: lying about her biography. While the entirety of her statements are not available because the campaign banned many reporters from entering the event hall, the paper did print some of the statements Davis gave.
Davis chided Republican opponent Greg Abbott for spreading “a distorted version of what happened to my family 30 years ago,” increasing the likelihood that Davis will neither apologize nor correct the errors the Dallas Morning News found in her official biography at any point in the campaign. This includes the lie that she was a teenage single mother and that she single-handedly put herself through law school.
Despite all the baggage of both Davis’s abortion record and her biography scandal, the event was most memorable for one simple image involving neither: her attempt to hold the famed gun of Ann Richards, provided to her by her daughter.
The lack of a steady hand triggered snickers all over the state, perhaps the most common comparing Davis to another Democrat who failed miserably at an attempt to look authoritative and intimidating: 1988 presidential candidate Michael Dukakis. MySanAntonio quipped Republicans immediately considered that she looked “less than natural” holding a weapon. Bryan Preston compared Davis to both Dukakis and fellow Massachusetts Democrat John Kerry, and called the photo an “unfortunate” attempt to make Davis look “badass” (he also provides a photo of Ann Richards holding the very same gun, adding insult to ego injury). Conservatives on Twitter were even more brutal, dragging poor Richard Simmons into the incident.
The photo is certainly comical but underscores a more sinister attempt by Davis to reshape her campaign into something more palatable to Texas voters. Davis told the Associated Press last week that she would like to work on legislation to “expand where people may carry handguns,” despite any opinion on guns being entirely absent from her official campaign platform and her “F” grade as a legislator from the NRA.
Davis’s only legislative history on guns was to promote a bill that would ban individuals with concealed carry licenses from bringing their weapons onto college campuses and a call for background checks at gun shows. The timing of this recent gun rights push is, at best, suspect. Davis not only faces the many accusations of distorting her biographical history; she faces an ethics investigation over her relationship with lobbyists and income that she appears to have not reported.
The gun push also comes at a time in which her past with the Republican Party is slowly bubbling up to the surface, including her donation to the George W. Bush presidential campaign. A candidate known only for supporting abortion and receiving a failing grade from the NRA before suddenly branding herself a pro-gun candidate stands to create a wildly incoherent platform and confuse voters. That her ideological background is completely unclear only adds to the image of a politician striving to amass power with no clear principles behind it.