Wendy Davis launches bid to unseat Chip Roy

Matt Zdun, Austin American-Statesman on

Published in Political News

AUSTIN, Texas -- Former Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis announced Monday she is running for the U.S. House, mounting the first significant challenge to freshman U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, a Republican from Hays County, in a district being aggressively eyed by national Democrats.

"I'm running for Congress because people's voices are still being silenced," Davis said in a more-than-four-minute launch video. "I'm running for our children and grandchildren so they can live and love and fight for change themselves."

Davis, a former state senator who garnered national attention in 2013 after her filibuster of an anti-abortion bill, toyed with the idea of running for months, revealing in April that she was considering running but saying two months later that she hadn't yet made up her mind. On Thursday, a congressional aide working for U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Texas, confirmed to the Austin American-Statesman that Davis had told Vela that she was running.

Democrats are already preparing for what could be a high-profile duel in the 21st Congressional District, which stretches from Austin to San Antonio and includes six Hill Country counties. Vela and fellow Texas Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett -- along with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other leaders in the U.S. House -- have organized an event on Tuesday in Washington "in support of her campaign for Texas CD21."

Davis' reentrance into politics comes after she lost to Gov. Greg Abbott by more than 20 percentage points in 2014. She could fare better in the district where Roy secured his seat in 2018 by less than 3 percentage points -- one of the six districts in Texas that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee hopes to flip in 2020.

Up to this point in the election cycle, Roy, one of the better-known freshman Republicans nationally for his criticism of Democrats and Republicans for what he's called their inaction on border security, has faced little Democratic opposition. He hauled in $412,000 in April, May and June, significantly more than the nearest Democrat, Jennie Lou Leeder, who raised about $10,000.


In her unsuccessful bid for governor in 2014, Davis proved to be a strong fundraiser, drawing in more than $30 million, though she was out-raised by Abbott. Roy raised $1.9 million last election cycle, less money than his Democratic opponent.

Davis' launch video featured footage of her father, Jerry Russell, the founder of a nonprofit theater company in Fort Worth, who died in 2013. It pieced together clips of Davis talking about voting and reproductive and immigrant rights, likely centerpieces of her campaign.

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