Just a few months ago, it seemed the battle for Texas’ 21st Congressional District couldn’t feature more diametrically opposed candidates.
On one side is incumbent freshman Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX-21), a self-identified limited government conservative. During his short time in Congress, Roy has made quite a name for himself speaking out on hot-button issues and taking difficult political stances — such as forcing a vote on the $19 billion disaster aid bill that would have otherwise passed without recorded positions from members.
Roy has even clashed with progressive groups at townhalls when some audience members continuously shouted over him. But he has frequently clashed with his own party as well, especially over federal spending like the $1.37 trillion omnibus spending bill Congress passed and President Trump signed in December.
His opponent, former State Senator Wendy Davis, is a died-in-the-wool progressive Democrat who rose to notoriety in 2013 for successfully filibustering a pro-life bill in the Texas Senate. This propelled her to run for governor in 2014 against current-Governor Greg Abbott — a contest she lost by 20 points.
Then there’s the issue of abortion. Davis, who rose to prominence after filibustering an omnibus pro-life bill on the floor of the Texas Senate, is staunchly pro-choice and Roy staunchly pro-life.
In the biggest story of the year before coronavirus, Davis supported the impeachment of the president, while Roy voted against the measure.
But since coronavirus swept the country, the chasm between the two has widened even further.
Roy opposed the second phase of Congress’ coronavirus legislation — a mandatory paid sick leave bill — for a few reasons, which included being given less than an hour to read the final version of the bill before the vote; the paid sick leave mandate it institutes, which Roy said would seriously burden small businesses; and the lack of fiscal note attached to the bill.
Davis criticized him for opposing the bipartisan bill that even President Trump and GOP leadership supported and being “one of only 11 members of the House of Representatives to vote against the bill.”
In a tweet the day before, Davis called on Congress to increase Medicaid funding, requiring businesses to provide paid sick leave, bolstering unemployment insurance, and “increase food security.”
More recently, the two sparred over enforcement of shelter orders — specifically one in Maine. Roy, on a radio show, commended a Maine sheriff for refusing to enforce a shelter order by its governor. The order states its provisions “shall be enforced by law enforcement as necessary and violations are a class E crime subject to up to six months in jail and a $1000 fine.”
The sheriff responded by saying his department would not “purposefully go out and stop vehicles because they are on the road or stop and ask why people are out and about.”
He further added, “To do so puts our officers at risk. This is not Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia where you are asked for your papers!”
Roy applauded the sheriff’s refusal to strictly enforce the provisions of the order, saying, “We need more of that. We need more rational human beings that are going to step back and say ‘No, this isn’t a police state, this isn’t Nazi Germany, this isn’t Russia, we aren’t going to do that.’”
In a San Antonio Current article, Davis criticized this statement, saying, “[Roy’s] comparison of stay at home orders supported by Republican and Democratic leaders across the country to ‘Nazi Germany’ is the latest example of his profound lack of judgment.”
The pair also disagrees on the broader dynamic between allowing businesses and workers to begin working again and maintaining the closures and shelter orders.
In an April 10 virtual townhall, Davis agreed with a San Antonio epidemiologist and said, “To restart our economy, we’ve got to make sure we have comprehensive testing.” The testing, Davis said, should be a prerequisite to allowing businesses to begin opening back up.
“We need widespread testing and we need it now. We cannot possibly restart our economy without it,” she added in a tweet that same day.
Roy, meanwhile, is of the opinion that businesses need to reopen before the economy is decimated. In a Houston Chronicle article, Roy stated, “It’s critical for the health and well-being of our state and nation that we re-start our economy.”
He further added, “Our supply chains, health care resources, food channels, energy sources — all of these depend on re-start. We can do it in ways to protect the elderly, the most vulnerable, and with precautions for everyone to minimize spread of the virus.”
The race for TX-21 is one of the most-watched in the country, and Democrats and progressive groups are backing Davis heavily.
Davis reported a $1.2 million haul in the first quarter of 2020 — now with $2 million cash-on-hand. Since coronavirus spread, the Texas Tribune reported, Davis “has kept up a steady stream of fundraising emails.”
Roy, meanwhile, raised over $450,000 this quarter, despite suspending fundraising efforts for most of March. He ends the first quarter with $1.5 million cash-on-hand.
In spite of the hold placed on traditional campaigning, the two candidates battling for the seat manage to continue distinguishing themselves from the other.
Correction: A previous version of the article misstated the year of then-Sen. Wendy Davis’ filibuster.
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Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad watching and quoting Monty Python productions.