Chip Roy is betting on desire for change in Washington to get elected to Congress

Chad Lyle

Editorial note: This article is part of a series on local candidates. 

UT alumnus Chip Roy, the Republican nominee to succeed Rep. Lamar Smith in Congressional District 21, said he is drawing on his past experience and desire to fix a broken system to win his race.  

Having served previously as chief of staff to Sen. Ted Cruz and as a senior adviser to former Gov. Rick Perry, Roy said he knows exactly what is broken in Washington and is committed to fixing it.

“I’ve worked in the bowels of ‘the swamp’ if you will,” Roy said. “What’s broken is the extent to which the representatives that we send to Washington are not actually working for us. They’re not working towards the ends that the people want … they’re governing by crisis, or by response to a particular issue that’s been raised, instead of taking a step back and saying, ‘What do the people want you to do?’”

Working for big names in Texas politics taught Roy how to run a campaign that is in touch with the emotions of voters, he said.

“(Former) Governor Perry has a strong gift at connecting with constituents,” Roy said. “I learned a lot from him about how you stop, listen, pay attention and really engage with people in the district and learn from them.”

While a student at the UT School of Law in the early 2000s, Roy worked on the original campaign for Sen. John Cornyn. His work on the campaign coincided with the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, which he said further influenced him to pursue a career in public service.  

“I was in law school when Sept. 11 happened,” Roy said. “I will always remember that moment, crystalized in my head. That had a lot to do with my commitment to public service.”

Roy’s experience in government has proved to be a draw for voters like Saurabh Sharma, the chairman of UT’s chapter of the Young Conservatives of Texas.

“Chip Roy, as chief of staff to Sen. Ted Cruz, learned how Congress works in and out, and knows how to leverage the institution to benefit conservatives,” biochemistry senior Sharma said. “The know-how that Chip has to be a real mover and shaker in congress, as opposed to just another good vote, is why I walked through a pair of shoes for him in the primary.”

District 21 has been a reliably Republican seat since 1986, but University Democrats communications director Kathleen Doviken said she thinks Roy’s Democratic rival, Joseph Kopser, has a chance to win.  

“This is a district that definitely leans Republican,” French senior Doviken said. “I think Kopser has some opportunity to turn some of the more moderate right-leaning people towards his side.”

Regardless of political persuasion, Roy said he would like to see students get more involved.

“I think it’s absolutely important for young people to engage in politics,” Roy said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to work for Capitol Hill or work in the lege … choose a candidate or candidates to get behind, and learn more. I’ve got people working for my campaign who, when they were in college, were volunteering on Democrat campaigns. Then they learned more about the positions and didn’t really like what they saw, and went to work in our direction. Get engaged and test the waters.”