Decision 2020: Chip Roy vs. Wendy Davis (TX-21)

Clayton Brosend ’24

Chip Roy, official portrait, 116th Congress
Chip Roy. United States Congress, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Texas District 21 race for U.S. House is considered to be one of the biggest toss-ups heading into the 2020 election. This contest between Republican incumbent Chip Roy and Democratic challenger Wendy Davis will speak to the larger, more gradual political movements in the district. The longtime red district, having seen diminishing Republican victories since 2012, is widely described as a toss-up, with only one report defining it as Republican-leaning.[1]

Texas House District 21 lies north of San Antonio and covers a significant portion of Austin. The district has been represented by Republicans since 1979, but has seen a gradual change as voter demographics have shifted. In the 2012 Presidential election, Mitt Romney carried the district by 22 points. This margin decreased in 2016 to only ten points. In the 2018 Senatorial election between Senator Ted Cruz and Beto O’Rourke, the candidates tied in District 21.[2]

Representative Roy is running on the strictly-Republican points that Texas is known to go by. His hardline stances on taxes, gun rights, and outspokenness regarding the right to life have made him a popular figure in the modern conservative movement.[3] These things, all strengths in a solid-red district, raise questions as political leanings begin to shift the other way. Roy’s purely-ideological platform is appealing to conservatives, but may prove challenging when tasked with winning over more moderate voters.

Wendy Davis by Gage Skidmore
Wendy Davis. Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Former Texas State Senator Wendy Davis has put a focus on her personal journey from poverty to graduating from Harvard Law. She rose to national fame as a women’s rights activist following a 13-hour filibuster to block a state abortion restriction bill. Her story and name recognition explain her appeal to those focused on the person over their policy positions. Similar to Roy, Davis loses some of her appeal to moderates with some of her more extreme stances like supporting a $15/hour minimum wage and expanding government involvement in healthcare.[4]

The stark ideological differences between both candidates require each to focus on the issues that appear most likely to appeal to undecided voters. Roy has doubled down on his support for law enforcement and recently began airing ads quoting Davis saying she “would not second-guess the decision” for the City of Austin to defund the police. Davis responded with an ad calling for criminal justice reform without defunding the police[5], and accused Chip Roy of voting against funding for police officers.[6]

The Davis campaign recently released an internal poll conducted by Garin Hart Yang Research Group that showed Davis at 48% and Roy at 47%, with a 5% margin of error.[7] These numbers appear to show a 7 slight uptick in support for Davis compared to a July poll, but the margin of error makes it difficult to make a definite judgment.

Similar to the 2018 Senatorial election, the 2020 election for Texas House District 21 is shaping up to be another tight race.

[1] Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales. (2020). House Ratings October 16. https:// 1

[2] Panetta, G., & Hall, M. (2020, September 4). First-term GOP Rep. Chip Roy looks to defend his seat 2 against Wendy Davis in Texas’ 21st Congressional District.

[3] Chip Roy for Congress. (2020). The Issues.

[4] Wendy Davis for Congress. (2020). Wendy Davis’ Platform.

[5] Chip Roy for Congress. (2020). News. 5 reclaim/.

[6] Fernando Ramirez. (2020, October 9). Wendy Davis releases ad attacking Chip Roy for defunding police.

[7] The Hill. (2020, September 8). Internal Democratic poll shows virtual tie in race for Texas House 7 district.