Updated 6:03 p.m. | Rep. Chip Roy’s decision to stall a disaster aid bill Friday is bringing new attention to the conservative freshman whom Democrats are looking to unseat in 2020.
The Texas Republican blocked a request to pass the $19.1 billion package by unanimous consent, raising concerns that the funds were not offset and that the package lacked money to process migrants at the southern border.
Democrats quickly slammed Roy’s move by focusing on the possibility that disaster relief would be delayed.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee launched a four-figure digital ad buy Friday in Roy’s district, Texas’ 21st. The static ad, which will appear on Facebook and Instagram, shows an image of Roy’s face submerged in water with the text, “Rep. Chip Roy is keeping Texas families underwater.”
The Texas Democratic Party noted in a statement that Texans “still don’t have homes to live in,” an apparent reference the ongoing recovery from Hurricane Harvey. The DCCC also sent out an email that described Roy’s move as “a dagger in the heart” to Americans waiting for disaster relief.
“Every day Congressman Roy spends in Washington, he turns more into a creature of the swamp, making it clear why this is a top tier Democratic pickup opportunity,” DCCC spokesman Avery Jaffe said in a statement.
Although he’s a freshman lawmaker, Roy is experienced on Capitol Hill. He previously served as Sen. Ted Cruz’s chief of staff when the Texas Republican led efforts that forced a government shutdown in 2013 over funding for the 2010 health care law. Both of Texas’ Republican senators — Cruz and John Cornyn, who is up for re-election next year — voted for the disaster aid bill in the Senate on Thursday.
“Roy’s move is straight out of the Trump/Cruz I’m right, you’re wrong, to hell with anyone else playbook,” Texas Democratic strategist Matt Angle said in a statement. “Any doubt Chip is a Trump Republican and a Ted Cruz protégé can be set aside.”
Roy has largely backed the president since entering Congress in January, supporting Trump’s priorities 90 percent of the time according to a CQ Vote Watch analysis. And he has sharply criticized Democrats for not acting on issues such as immigration, echoing some of Trump’s rhetoric.
“Nancy Pelosi does not care about the children and the women being exploited. Let me repeat that — she doesn’t care,” Roy told Fox News two weeks ago. “She wants the political issue. And she’s ignoring the danger that’s happening to women and children.”
“The president wants to fix it. Pelosi won’t do it,” Roy said. “And the bureaucrats at the deep state at the Department of Homeland Security are blocking the will of the president and they should stop it right now.”
A member of the hard-line conservative House Freedom Caucus, Roy battled through an 18-person GOP primary field last year for the 21st District seat after Republican incumbent Lamar Smith announced his retirement. He was backed by the Freedom Caucus, and the Club for Growth spent more than $1 million to boost him in the primary.
Initially, the district, which stretches from San Antonio to Austin, was thought to be in safe Republican hands since President Donald Trump had carried it by 10 points in 2016. But Roy ended up narrowly winning the general election, garnering just over 50 percent of the vote to defeat Democratic Army veteran Joseph Kopser by 3 points.
Kopser, who raised $3.2 million in that race to Roy’s $1.9 million, is not running again, and Democrats are still waiting on a challenger. In the first fundraising quarter of the 2020 cycle, Roy raised $253,000 and had $321,000 on hand on March 31.
Former Texas gubernatorial nominee Wendy Davis, who garnered national attention in 2013 when she filibustered an anti-abortion bill in the state Senate, has said she is considering running in the 21st District. She previously represented a Fort Worth-based seat in the Texas Senate but now resides in the Austin area.
Roy knocked Davis after she said she was considering running against him, tweeting that her “radical left Hollywood views are out-of-step with the Texas Hill Country values.” Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Likely Republican.
Democrats believe the 21st District and others in Texas represent pickup opportunities because of shifting demographics and recent gains in the suburbs. The DCCC has opened up a Texas headquarters in Austin and is targeting six GOP-held Texas seats next year, including Roy’s.
The DCCC conducted a poll from April 4-6 in Roy’s district and two others. In the 21st District, 37 percent of respondents said Roy should be re-elected, 51 percent would either vote to replace him or consider voting for someone else, and 12 percent were unsure. The poll had a 4.9 percent margin of error and surveyed 401 likely general election voters via a mix of live cell phone and automated calls.
Jennifer Shutt contributed to this report.