Republican Chip Roy and Democrat Joseph Kopser emerged from a field of 22 candidates — 18 Republicans and four Democrats — in the race to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith in Texas' 21st Congressional District, which includes portions of Austin and San Antonio and large portions of the Hill Country.
Roy is a lawyer who's worked for the state and Republican officeholders, including serving as Ted Cruz's chief of staff in the U.S. Senate. Kopser is a decorated Army veteran and tech entrepreneur who started a travel-planning app. (Libertarian Lee Santos is also vying for the seat.)
Kopser and Roy are quick to distinguish their views on abortion and what it means to be a centrist. When it comes to health care, both agree on just one thing — the importance of ensuring coverage for people with pre-existing conditions — but they differ on how to deliver on that promise. Roy supports repealing the Affordable Care Act. Kopser wants to fix former President Barack Obama's signature health care law and lower premiums in the process.
Kopser argues that Roy's positions on health care are at odds with his actions in 2016, when the former first assistant attorney general reportedly continued to draw some of his state salary and benefits after leaving the AG's office to join a pro-Ted Cruz super PAC. At the time, The Dallas Morning News reported Roy was among at least two former aides who were paid by the state after their departure. Attorney General Ken Paxton's office told the newspaper that Roy resigned on March 9, 2016 but remained on "emergency leave" through June 10 of that year, an arrangement that could have netted Roy as much as $48,660.
Roy, a cancer survivor, emphasizes he was only paid for services he provided and took the leave option for medical reasons.
Neither Roy nor Kopser technically live in the 21st Congressional District, but both are quick to list why they have deep roots in the district — whether it's having built a business in the San Antonio area or sending their children to school within the boundaries. On the federal level, there’s no rule that requires a member of congress to live in the district they represent.
Watch as the candidates debate these issues and struggle with naming the best barbecue in the district in the latest edition of our "Split Decision" virtual debate series.
Disclosure: Joseph Kopser has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.