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Wendy Davis Sees Legal Income Rise

Marjorie Kamys Cotera, Texas Tribune
State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, greeting supporters at a phone bank in Austin.

Democrat Wendy Davis only makes $7,200 a year in salary as a state senator, but her take-home pay more than doubled between 2010 and 2012 thanks to steadily rising income from her private law practice, tax records show. 

Davis, who is running for Texas governor, provided her last three tax returns to The Texas Tribune late Tuesday. Her expected Republican opponent, Attorney General Greg Abbottpreviously provided his last three returns.

A graduate of Harvard Law School, Davis lists two attorney jobs on her résumé: She's a partner in her own firm, Newby Davis, and a lawyer “of counsel” to the much larger Cantey Hanger firm. Both are located in Fort Worth. 

Davis’ adjusted gross income rose from $130,931 in 2010 to $235,428 in 2011 and $284,183 last year. She made roughly $12,000 to $14,000 a year from capital gains, mostly from the sale of mutual funds. 

In 2010, Davis’ combined legal work brought in $126,043, then rose to $223,263 a year later before hitting $275,271 in 2012, according to figures filed under tax schedules for business and partnership income. 

Her work as a partner in the Newby Davis firm became her most lucrative job in 2012, according to the returns. She made $33,346 from the partnership in 2010, $52,691 in 2011 and $154,212 last year.

As in her 2012 re-election race, Davis’ income from Newby Davis is sure to be a flashpoint in the race for governor. She launched the firm three years ago with Brian Newby, Republican Gov. Rick Perry’s former chief of staff. They have numerous public-sector clients, including the North Texas Tollway Authority, the DFW Airport Board and the Fort Worth Independent School district, all of which have interests before the Legislature.

Davis has so far declined to release a full list of public-sector clients for whom she has provided legal services. Her campaign told the Tribune last month she is no longer accepting legal clients while wrapping up her responsibilities to clients she already has. She also is asking public entities for their permission to release information about them, her campaign said.

Davis has made relatively modest contributions to charity. In 2010 she reported giving $2,700. She gave $515 in 2011 and $950 in 2012, the tax returns show.

Candidates for state office in Texas are not required to disclose their tax returns, but it has become customary for the major gubernatorial candidates to provide them to the news media.

See Davis' 2010, 2011 and 2012 reports.

Jay Root is a native of Liberty. He never knew any reporters growing up, and he has never taken a journalism class in his life. But somehow he got hooked on the news business. It all started when he walked into the offices of The Daily Texan, his college newspaper, during his last year at the University of Texas in 1987. He couldn't the resist the draw: it was the the biggest collection of misfits ever assembled. After graduating, he took a job at a Houston chemical company and realized it wasn't for him. Soon he was applying for an unpaid internship at the Houston Post in 1990, and it turned into a full-time job that same year. He has been a reporter ever since. He has covered natural disasters, live music and Texas politics — not necessarily in that order. He was Austin bureau chief of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for a dozen years, most of them good. He also covered politics and the Legislature for The Associated Press before joining the staff of the Tribune.
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