The death of Representative Ron Wright yielded a second round of 23 candidates to fill his vacancy in a changing district.
A special election for the House of Representatives in Texas’ Sixth Congressional District will reach a second round, with two Republicans in a race that will have implications for the mid-term elections of 2022 and the post-Trump Republican Party.
The special election was called after the death of Rep. Ron Wright (R-TX) due to Covid-19. Voters in the district, which is centered in the suburb of Tarrant County, outside Fort Worth, went to the polls on Saturday to choose from a list of 23 candidates in an all-party election.
Susan Wright, the widow of the late congressman and longtime Republican activist in the district, will advance to the second round after winning 19 percent of the vote, according to the Texas Tribune. She will be joined by Republican state deputy Jake Ellzey, after Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez relented on Sunday, although the dispute has not yet been officially called due to only 354 votes separating the two.
In all, Republican candidates received about 62% of the vote, while Democrats won about 37%. There were 78,374 votes cast – a far cry from election day in 2020, when 339,992 voters voted in the House race, according to the New York Times.
The low turnout may explain the Democrats’ disappointing performance in an election that was probably their only opportunity to increase their calendar this year to expand their narrow majority in the House from 222 to 213.
There were seven special elections scheduled for this year, but with the district obtaining an R + 6 rating from the Cook Partisan Voting Index – indicating a slight inclination for the Republican vote – the Texas election was the only one that was expected to be competitive.
The Sixth District of Texas is one of the areas where recent voting patterns and demographic changes have excited the Democratic Party with the state of the Lone Star. After years of being a virtual blockade for the Republican Party, the district went from being won by John McCain in the 2008 presidential election by 15 points to going to Trump in 2020 by just a three-point margin.
The Democrats’ optimistic outlook for Texas did not work in 2020, suggesting that they still have a long way to go to convert the growth of black and Latino populations into votes of support.
With such a narrow majority, taking the seat would have been critical for Democrats in 2022 with some disadvantages, including being the president’s party – historically, an omen of bad luck – and staying out of the redistricting process in key states, including Texas, where Republicans will have the opportunity to design congressional maps that are advantageous to their interests.
The special election was an important test for the Republican Party, being the first chance for Republicans to compete with each other in a post-Trump world.
Wright, who won the majority of the votes and will compete in the second round, received a last-minute endorsement from Trump just five days before the election.
“Susan Wright will be an excellent congressman (TX-06) for the Greater Texas State,” Trump said in a statement, according to the Texas Tribune. “She is the wife of the late Congressman Ron Wright, who has always supported our America First policies.”
But Wright was far from the most dedicated Trump acolyte in the race. The list of 11 Republicans included Brian Harrison, who worked in the Trump administration as chief of staff to former Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar; Sery Kim, who worked on the Trump administration’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership and was outspoken in its praise for the former president; Travis Rodermund, who focused his campaign on the rights of arms and the construction of the border wall; and Dan Rodimer, a professional fighter that Trump endorsed in a previous race.
So while Wright was the candidate endorsed by Trump and was not clumsy when it came to anti-abortion, anti-immigrant and anti-federal or voting rights laws, she was certainly not the most Trumpian of the group. The same goes for Ellzey, who talks about similar Republican Party themes, but was criticized by Wright as being mild with immigration, criticized by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) for not being conservative enough, and against the anti- imposed by A Growth, which spent six digits on attack ads against him, according to the Texas Tribune.