Chip Roy, a former chief of staff to Sen. Ted Cruz, is seeking the 21st Congressional District seat being vacated by Lamar Smith (R-San Antonio). Credit: Shelby Knowles / Texas Tribune

Chip Roy — a former senior staffer to multiple top Texas Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz — is running for Congress, looking to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-San Antonio).

Roy, Cruz’s former chief of staff, announced his campaign for Texas’ 21st Congressional District on Wednesday morning, jumping into an already crowded field for Smith’s seat. Smith said last month that he is not seeking re-election after 16 terms in the House.

The Austin-based Roy enters the race as a formidable candidate with a long history in conservative circles in Texas. In addition to leading Cruz’s office when he first got to Washington in 2013, Roy has previously held senior roles under Attorney General Ken Paxton, former Gov. Rick Perry and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn. He most recently served as the director for the Center for Tenth Amendment Action at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the Austin-based conservative think tank.

Roy’s campaign is being staffed by a number of Cruz veterans. They include Jason Johnson, the chief strategist for Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign; John Drogin, the campaign manager for Cruz’s 2012 U.S. Senate bid; and Jordan Berry, another alum of Cruz’s 2012 bid.

Since Smith announced his retirement, more than a dozen Republicans have lined up for the seat. Some of the more prominent names include state Rep. Jason Isaac of Dripping Springs, ex-Bexar County GOP Chairman Robert Stovall and former U.S. Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco of San Antonio.

On the Democratic side, a spirited four-way primary has been unfolding for months. After Smith announced he will not run for re-election, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee added TX-21 to its target list for 2018, which already included three other districts in Texas.

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Patrick Svitek, The Texas Tribune

Patrick Svitek is the primary political correspondent for The Texas Tribune and editor of The Blast, the Tribune's subscription-only daily newsletter for political insiders.