Battleground 2020Elections 2020FederalTexas Battleground: Wendy Davis Rumored to Announce Congressional Run Against Chip Roy

The 2014 gubernatorial candidate has not yet declared, but a Davis challenge to Rep. Chip Roy would set up a high-profile battle between progressives and conservatives.
June 7, 2019

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Five years removed from her unsuccessful gubernatorial bid, it has been widely speculated that former state Senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) will challenge freshman Republican Chip Roy in a congressional bid.

On June 6, Dallas Morning News reporter Lauren McGaughy tweeted that Marc Winkleman — a well-known businessman and Democrat political donor — informed her that Wendy Davis had confirmed to him she will run against Roy.

Later, when McGaughy asked Davis about it directly, Davis replied that she “will be ready to confirm her future plans in about 3 weeks.”

Should she jump in, it will likely be one of the highest profile races in the Lone Star State, if not the country.

Not only will she be running in a presidential election year with an incumbent president of the opposite party, but it’ll be a year where Democrats desperately want to replicate their electoral success of the 2018 midterms.

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In her corner will be the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) as it was announced in January that Texas’ 21st congressional district is one of its top 33 targets across the country.

In fact, six Texas congressional districts are among those 33 being targeted by the DCCC.

The DCCC spent over $4.5 million on Texas congressional races in the 2018 cycle.

Congressman Chip Roy made waves recently for his objection to a unanimous consent motion for a massive $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) tried to pass without a recorded vote. Roy’s objection was predicated not just on the attempt to pass the bill without a vote, but also on the lack of border security funding and the lack of spending offsets.

Roy won the Republican nomination in a crowded primary after longtime Congressman Lamar Smith retired.

Roy finished with 27 percent of the vote over 17 other candidates. He and runner-up Matt McCall advanced to a run-off election — from which Roy emerged victorious by less than 2,000 votes.

Roy then faced Democrat Joseph Kopser in the general election last November, winning by roughly 2.5 percent.

In 2018, Roy was supported by the Club for Growth — who donated $171,021 to his campaign. He is again endorsed by the fiscal conservative advocacy group for 2020.

Roy served as chief of staff for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), is a former first assistant Attorney General for Texas, and served as an advisor to former Gov. Rick Perry.

Roy raised $1,893,327.37 and spent $1,757,842.15 in his 2018 election. He currently has $321,008.84 cash on hand as of the latest campaign filing.

Davis is an attorney who represented District 10 in the Texas Senate from 2009 to 2015.

In 2014 she declined to run for re-election and instead challenged then-Attorney General Greg Abbott in the gubernatorial race after incumbent Perry announced he would not seek re-election.

She lost the election by a crushing 20 points.

Davis rose to fame in 2013 when she successfully killed a pro-life bill with an 11-hour filibuster while wearing her soon-to-be-famous pink tennis shoes. She is known to be one of the most high-profile abortion advocates not just in Texas, but in the nation.

With the wave of heartbeat bills being passed in states across the country in response to New York’s abortion law, which effectively allows for an abortion at any point in a pregnancy, a potential Roy-Davis matchup would likely stir deep passions on both sides of the partisan divide.

However, Davis has not yet filed a committee with the Federal Elections Commission.

If Davis jumps in, she would join Jennie Leeder and Bruce Boville who each have less than $3,500 cash on hand.

The 21st congressional district has a population of 809,322 according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The median household income is $71,486, roughly 20 percent higher than the statewide median. About 46 percent of the population has a bachelor’s degree or higher, roughly 20 percent higher than the state average.

The district stretches across Bandera, Blanco, Gillespie, Kendall, Kerr, and Real counties and includes parts of Bexar, Comal, Hays, and Travis counties.

In 2014, John Cornyn won the district by nearly 30 points and Lamar Smith won it by almost 60. That same year, Davis lost the district by 19.5 percent to Abbott.

In 2016, Donald Trump topped Hillary Clinton by almost 10 points in the district. And Smith won re-election by almost 20 percent.

Two years ago, Sen. Cruz took the district over Beto O’Rourke by a mere 539 votes or 0.1 percent.

In that election, Gov. Abbott took the district by slightly over 12 percent, Lt. Governor Patrick won by under four percent, and Attorney General Paxton secured the district by less than two percent.

Midterm elections tend to trend against the incumbent President’s party, and 2018 was no exception. It saw a historically heavily dominated Republican district turn to a narrow one.

It remains to be seen if Democrats will be able to replicate their 2018 success in a presidential election year. And how a high-profile progressive candidate like Davis will fare against Roy in a district which rejected her by almost 20 points just five years ago.

Addendum: As additional context, Rep. Lamar Smith won his 2014 race by nearly 60 points without facing a Democrat opponent. That year he only faced competition from a Green Party candidate and a Libertarian Party candidate.


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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and 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 quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.