Two Texas Republicans will advance to a congressional runoff race following a crowded special election Saturday that had been House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) one opportunity — out of the six congressional special elections taking place this year — to add a seat to Democrats’ extremely slim House majority.
Susan Wright, widow to the late Rep. Ron Wright (R-TX) whose seat the special election was held to fill, received the most votes out of 23 candidates at 19 percent, Decision Desk HQ results showed late Saturday evening.
Wright issued a statement around midnight local time, saying, “I can’t tell you how honored I am to be the first-place finisher in this special election to succeed my husband Ron,” adding that she is “looking forward” to making her case in the runoff.
Ron Wright died in February a little over two weeks after being hospitalized with coronavirus. He had also been battling lung cancer since 2018. Susan Wright announced she would seek to fill his seat — in Texas’s Sixth Congressional District — in February just a few weeks after his death.
State Rep. Jake Ellzey (R-Waxahachie) came in behind Wright with close to 14 percent of the vote and just barely edged out the Democrat candidate who placed third, Jana Lynne Sanchez.
Wright and Ellzey will now face off in a runoff in the next couple months on a date to be determined.
In the week leading up to the race, Wright received a last-minute endorsement from former President Donald Trump, which may have contributed to her success. Election analyst Ryan Matsumoto speculated as such based on Wright seeing a noticeable influx of votes on election day whereas runner-up Ellzey saw higher turnout in his early voting numbers than in his election day numbers:
Looks like Trump's endorsement of Susan Wright in the #TX06 special election really moved the needle on Republican side:
Early/Absentee -> Election DaySusan Wright: 15.77% -> 24.07%Jake Ellzey: 15.75% -> 11.38%Brian Harrison: 12.84% -> 8.17%
— Ryan Matsumoto (@ryanmatsumoto1) May 2, 2021
Trump said of Wright in his endorsement announcement, which he made Monday, that she “will be a terrific Congresswoman” and “will be strong on the Border, Crime, Pro-Life, our brave military and Vets, and will ALWAYS protect your Second Amendment.”
One Republican in the race, Michael Wood, ran on a Never Trump platform and had the backing of fellow Never Trumper Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), who broke with his party to vote for Trump’s impeachment in January. Wood received about three percent of the vote Saturday, placing far below multiple Republicans despite Kinzinger traveling to Texas this week to campaign for him:
As one #TX06 voter said, ‘it takes one person to make a difference.’ @AdamKinzinger is fighting for the soul of the GOP for the good of this country & supporting @michaelwoodtx who shares that same mission. https://t.co/C8EzaTGKL7
— COUNTRY FIRST (@COUNTRY_F1RST) April 30, 2021
The Democrats’ failure to make the runoff for this election is a blow to the party, which had reason to be optimistic about the race because of Democrats gaining ground in the district in 2020. Biden came within three points of flipping the district after Trump won by double digits against Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Sanchez herself indicated the race was a pickup opportunity for her party, writing in a social media post Saturday morning, “It’s Election Day! We have the opportunity to flip #TX06 blue and send a true leader to Congress who’ll get things done for working families across North Texas.”
As race results trickled in Saturday night, reporters and analysts gave their explanations for the party’s defeat, one calling it “embarrassing” but pointing to a lack of spending and high-profile endorsements as a suggestion that party leaders made a calculated choice to avoid what would have been an uphill battle because of the district leaning red:
And as embarrassing as it is to get locked out of the contest for a seat Trump carried by just 3 points, Dems are making a wager that voters and donors aren't tuned in enough to notice or care (a departure from 2017-2018).
— Jacob Rubashkin (@JacobRubashkin) May 2, 2021
The DCCC et. al. will get some flak for sleeping on #TX06, leading to this poor showing. But strategically, they were right not to throw away millions: TX Rs will get to redraw it before 2022, so it doesn't matter for the majority.
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) May 2, 2021
Terrible Dem turnout in the #TX06 special.
Biden got 48% here, so the fact Dems combined for just 39% is… very bad. No way around it. pic.twitter.com/YZyaoyHY9c
— Brent Peabody (@brent_peabody) May 2, 2021
In neighboring New Mexico, one other competitive special election race is approaching to fill the seat of now-Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. The race, taking place June 1, is seen as leaning blue, but Saturday’s results raise questions about if Democrats’ worse-than-expected performance in Texas’s Sixth District will translate one state over and into that race.
Write to Ashley Oliver at [email protected].