Shutting out Democrats who had hoped to make the district competitive, Republicans Susan Wright and Jake Ellzey will meet in a runoff to replace Wright’s husband, the late Rep. Ron Wright, in Texas’ 6th District.
The district, which stretches from the Dallas-Fort Worth area into the surrounding rural areas, supported President Donald Trump over Democrat Joe Biden by 3 percentage points in November.
It was considered the best pick-up opportunity for Democrats among a handful of special elections this cycle. But Republicans in the 23-candidate field received 62 percent of the vote to the Democrats’ 37 percent in the special election Saturday.
Susan Wright got a last-minute endorsement from Trump and finished first with 19 percent of the vote, far short of the 50 percent required for an outright win. Ellzey, a state lawmaker who was the top fundraiser in the race, got 14 percent, narrowly edging out Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez, the 2018 Democratic nominee for the same seat, who had 13 percent. The runoff date has not been scheduled.
Wright was considered a frontrunner from the time she announced her campaign, shortly after her husband became the first member of Congress to die from COVID-19. But she faced stiff competition and her campaign flagged in the final stretch until Trump weighed on April 26, a week after early voting started and a day before it ended.
With the exception of one anti-Trump Republican candidate, the GOP field hewed closely to the former president. Democrats, meanwhile, hoped they could capitalize on anger over the state’s Republican leaders’ response to a deadly February storm to turn out enough voters to clinch a spot in the runoff.
Wright spent much of the last week working to stop Ellzey’s momentum, attacking him as light on immigration and claiming in mailers that he had “opposed” a Trump military spending bill, a reference to a $1.3 trillion spending package that Trump reluctantly signed in 2018.
Ellzey also had to fend off attacks from the anti-tax Club for Growth, which aired ads questioning his Trump loyalty. Ellzey responded by rushing to confirm his support for Trump and touting his endorsement from former Trump Energy secretary and GOP Gov. Rick Perry.
Dozens in House GOP back Wright
Ellzey, a commercial airline pilot and retired Navy fighter pilot, had the most outside support in the race, with a combined $354,000 in support from the American Patriots PAC and Elect Principled Veterans Fund offsetting the $260,000 Club for Growth spent opposing him. Wright received $30,000 in support from the Club for Growth. She also received donations from committees associated with dozens of members of Congress, including $10,000 from E-PAC, the committee founded by New York Rep. Elise Stefanik to support Republican women.
Other Republican candidates included former Trump administration officials Brian Harrison, and Sery Kim. Dan Rodimer, a former professional wrestler, ran ads declaring he was the only candidate who “has ever been endorsed by President Trump” in the race, referring to the endorsement the former president gave when Rodimer ran unsuccessfully for the House last year in Nevada. Those ads earned him a rebuke from Trump spokesman Jason Miller.
Michael Wood, a Marine veteran who campaigned as an anti-Trump Republican, got $17,000 in support from Veterans for Responsible Leadership, a nonpartisan group that has condemned veterans who were involved in the January 6 insurection at the Capitol. He ended up getting 3 percent of the vote.
The Democratic field was split among 10 candidates. Sanchez and Shawn Lassiter, a Fort Worth education nonprofit leader, and Lydia Bean, a 2018 state House candidate, were the top Democratic fundraisers. They each had receipts in the low six figures. Sanchez also benefited from $100,000 in support from Nuestro PAC, which works to turn out Latino voters, and Operation 147, a PAC that formed in March to oppose Republican members of Congress who voted against certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Lassiter gor $17,000 in support from a PAC called Elect Educators Everywhere.