AUSTIN, Texas — The race to represent District 21 in the U.S. House of Representatives is heating up. The seat is now considered a toss-up.
District 21 includes parts of Travis and Hays counties and stretches west to Blanco and Gillespie counties and beyond. In 2018, the seat was open and Republican Chip Roy won by about three percentage points.
This time around, Roy is facing former Democratic state senator and former Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis. But Roy is confident the people of Central Texas will back him.
He discussed his campaign for reelection with KVUE Political Anchor Ashley Goudeau.
Ashley Goudeau: How would you describe your first term in office?
U.S. Rep. Chip Roy: "Well, you know, when I ran two years ago, I decided to run on a pretty simple idea of just doing what you said you would do. And when I got to Washington, that's what I tried to do. I tried to fight to make sure that we have a secure border, make sure that we preserve health care for the people in the United States and in the state of Texas, my constituents. To make sure that we balance the budget, to make sure our men and women have a clear mission and the tools to carry it out and care when they get home. And then pretty much keep Washington out of our lives. That's what I've tried to do. I never would have guessed two years ago, though, that now I'd be running on a campaign to stand up for America. That's what we're doing."
Goudeau: And talk to us about why it is you're running for another term.
Roy: "Well, the last two years, it's been a great honor to represent the people of Central Texas and I feel like I'm just getting started. I was very pleased this year to pass a bipartisan piece of legislation, the PPP Flexibility Act, which is helping save the jobs for thousands of Central Texans and thousands of businesses, restaurants, hotel owners, a lot of music venues. So, many of the people who have been negatively impacted by the virus and, of course, the shutdown related to it. And it takes a lot for a freshman member of Congress to get a bipartisan bill passed. And I'm very proud of doing that.
And I'm also proud of standing up on the floor to try to change the processes and make people understand that Washington is broken because we're not [sitting] down, rolling our sleeves up and doing the hard work that the American people sent us up there to do. And so, I don't mind picking a few fights every once in a while in defense of the people that I represent. And I'm proud to do it, whether it's border security or spending or health care or whatever the issue is on the floor. And I'm looking forward to finishing out here strong and then getting out on the campaign trail and then another two years representing the fine people of Central Texas."
Goudeau: You know, in 2018, this race was pretty close. But you won by three percentage points. This time around, the race has been declared a toss-up and you're facing a Democrat that has much more name recognition, former state senator and former gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis. Are you at all concerned that the district could flip this election?
Roy: "The people of Central Texas know full well that I've been fighting for them, that I've been doing what I said I would do and I think they know full well who my opponent is. She has a significant amount of name I.D., but it's all not very positive given her track record and given what she's known for and filibustering for a post-20-week abortion, but also voting against banning sanctuary cities and refusing to stand up with our law enforcement community on the streets of Austin. I've been out there, backing the blue, standing up with our law enforcement in Austin, San Antonio, throughout the Central Texas area. The people of this part of Texas, they want us to stand with the law enforcement. They want law to work, they want safe streets.
They don't want to be patting [the] Austin City Council on the head and saying, 'Thank you for cutting the budget of the police by a third.' So, I think it's [going] to be pretty clear and I'm not really concerned at all that the Democratic leadership wants to spend millions of dollars and light it on fire in the streets [of] Congress Avenue. They're welcome to do so."
Goudeau: Davis has said that she's running against you because you look out for special interest groups, not the people. And she calls you one of the leading COVID-19 skeptics. How do you respond to that?
Roy: "Well, people, when they're running campaigns, love to throw out terms like 'representing special interests.' But I'm representing the people of Texas when I'm fighting to get their jobs back, for instance, and passing bipartisan legislation with a freshman Democrat from Minnesota. I'm working on a bipartisan basis with Democrats in Texas to make sure that we have a secure border, like Henry Cuellar, and having a bill that would clear the cane and build a road along the border so our Border Patrol agents can do their job effectively. Working on a bipartisan basis to stand with law enforcement.
My opponent, on the other hand, is working on a partisan basis. A partisan basis to stand with the radical leftists of the city council of Austin, Texas, that want to endanger our communities, that don't want to stand with law enforcement and that don't want to stand up for the people. And you have to make hard decisions in Washington. I'm proud of my track record, and she's going to throw lots of elbows and punches because that's what they're left with."
Goudeau: I do want to ask you about your response to COVID-19. You have made some comments that would – that people would say show that you are skeptical of the virus and just how serious it is and things that have been counter to what doctors and even the nation's top doctors have said. How do you respond to that?
Roy: "What I've been doing is studying the actual facts and the actual data – looking at who's been affected by the virus and trying to zero in on that, right? We know the data, right? We've seen the number of people, the 80% of people who have [succumbed] to the virus who are over 65 years of age. The number of people that have been hit by the virus in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Let's focus on that. Not running the sort of panic and fear playbook that my Democratic colleagues prefer to do, for example, in opening schools.
My kids go to school. They've been there for five or six weeks. There are 11 and nine years old. I wouldn't endanger them for the world, but it's important for our kids to be back at school. We're seeing the negative effects right now when people aren't back engaging in school and kids who can't get access to education.
Mental health, suicide rates up 20% among veterans, the number of people who aren't getting cancer screenings. As a cancer survivor, I can tell you how devastating it is that we've been shutting down our society and making it difficult for people to go get cancer screenings. I'm pretty blessed that I was diagnosed in 2011 instead of today because I had stage three Hodgkin's Lymphoma, instead of maybe finding out it was stage four because I didn't get a screening because some people want us to cower in fear.
I've been looking at the data, going to hearings, calling all the people in the administration to try and seek the truth and then convey that truth to the American people, in particular the people of Central Texas. I believe that's the right way we should approach it. I don't think we should politicize a virus, which is exactly what has occurred, and we should be focused on solving the problem together. And that's the best approach."
Goudeau: If you are reelected to Congress, what would be your top priority in 2021?
Roy: "Well, again, I look forward to going out and campaigning over the next four or five weeks to earn support. And I'll continue to fight for the things that I ran on initially, making sure that we stand up to secure the border of the United States, to protect our communities, but also to protect the migrants who come here, who are abused by cartels and lawless organizations on the journey. We should do our basic job to do that. We should balance the budget like small businesses, people who balance the budget in their own homes. And we should fight to ensure that we preserve health care freedom and the ability for individuals to access health care without a government bureaucrat, more importantly, an insurance bureaucrat getting in the way.
I look, I laugh at my Democratic colleagues who talk about how great they think the health care system is, but yet they keep offering brand new mega solutions to it, like Medicare for all. They recognize the failures in the health care system. We all need to work together on [how] to solve those problems and to restore the doctor-patient relationship. Stop having bureaucrats get in the way of that.
And lastly, I want to stand up for our men and women in uniform, make sure they've got the tools they need and the care they get at home. And importantly, I've been raising questions on a bipartisan basis, wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post with Democratic colleagues and Republican colleagues, saying it's time for us to rethink our authorization of the use of military force. We currently have men and women in uniform who are enlisting today who weren't alive when we passed the first authorization of force that they're operating under.
So, we've got a lot of work to do. Those are some of the things. Most importantly, I just want the government [to] stay out of your life, my life and the lives of our community and let Texans do what they do best. And I want to make sure we're standing up for [the] American process."
Early voting in Texas continues until Friday, Oct. 30. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3.
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