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TV ad blitz kicks off in high-profile battle between U.S. Rep. Chip Roy and Wendy Davis

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U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Austin, is being challenged by Democratic former state Sen. Wendy Davis in Texas' 21st Congressional District. Credit: The Texas Tribune

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The TV ad campaign is getting a relatively early start in the race for Texas' 21st Congressional District, foretelling a contentious, expensive sprint to November for U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Austin, and his well-known Democratic opponent, Wendy Davis.

Both sides in the race are launching their first TV ads of the general election Tuesday, the details of which were first shared with The Texas Tribune. Davis' campaign is going up with a spot that highlights her biography and the fact that she's a grandmother. Meanwhile, the pro-Roy Club for Growth is starting to air an attack ad against Davis, whom the ad calls a "self-serving politician."

In the wide congressional battlefield this election cycle in Texas, it is the first race where both teams are on the air — and likely a sign of much more to come.

In Davis' ad, she talks about her life story, from her parents' divorce when she 13 years old to living in a trailer park and ultimately becoming a state senator. Davis represented the Fort Worth area from 2009 to 2015.

"As a state senator, I put Texas over party because everyone deserves a fair shot," Davis says. "I approved this message because now I’m a grandmother, and we owe them the same opportunities we had."

Davis' campaign said the ad would begin airing Tuesday on broadcast and cable channels as part of a "significant buy" in the Austin and San Antonio media markets. The spot will also run digitally.

The Club for Growth ad blasts Davis as a "selfish" career politician, particularly taking issue with how she spent campaign funds on lodging in Austin while serving in the Legislature. Members are allowed to use donors' dollars to pay for such accommodations — and it is not uncommon — though the practice is a ripe area for government watchdogs and political foes.

In Davis' case, there was a conservative media report during her unsuccessful 2014 gubernatorial bid about how she spent more than $131,000 in campaign funding on luxury apartments in Austin. Davis' campaign said at the time that she was not the only person staying at the apartments — legislative staffers were as well — and that she had complied with state law in disclosing the spending.

The commercial ends by calling Davis "just another self-serving politician."

The Club for Growth said it was spending $482,000 to air the ad over the next two weeks on broadcast in the San Antonio market.

The Club for Growth has reserved $2.5 million in fall TV reservations for Roy and has said more is coming. The group was an early supporter of Roy in the 2018 race for the seat, helping him get through an 18-candidate primary and then runoff, and it quickly endorsed him for reelection at the start of this cycle.

Roy appears to need the outside support. Davis has outraised him every quarter she has been in the race, building a significant cash-on-hand advantage by the end of June: her $2.9 million to his $1.7 million.

Roy's seat is among seven that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is targeting this fall in Texas. Davis, meanwhile, is one of five candidates across those seven races that the DCCC has enrolled in its Red to Blue program for top recruits.