April 1, 2023

Republicans Susan Wright, Jake Ellzey headed to runoff for North Texas congressional district

Republicans Susan Wright and state Rep. Jake Ellzey of Waxahachie are heading to a runoff in the special election to replace the late U.S. Rep. Ron Wright, R-Arlington, in Texas’ 6th Congressional District.

The race to replace Ron Wright after he died this year drew 23 candidates: 11 Republicans, 10 Democrats, one Libertarian and one independent. The district spreads southeast from the Dallas-Fort Worth area to rural Ellis and Navarro counties.

With all precincts reporting, Susan Wright, a veteran GOP activist and Ron Wright’s widow, led with 19% of the vote. Ellzey, the leading Republican fundraiser in the race, received nearly 14% of the vote. Jana Lynne Sanchez, the leading Democratic candidate, had about 13% of the vote and fell just short of qualifying for the runoff, which has not been scheduled.

The homestretch of the special election was highlighted by former President Donald Trump’s late decision to get involved and endorse Susan Wright, even as some of her GOP rivals campaigned as pro-Trump stalwarts. Trump backed Susan Wright on Monday — the second-to-last day of early voting — and starred in a tele-town hall for her Thursday night.

The district was once strongly Republican, but it has quickly trended blue in recent statewide election results, and former President Donald Trump won it last year by only 3 percentage points. However, Ron Wright won reelection by 9 points in 2020, when he was a national Democratic target.

The race for Ron Wright’s unfinished term never drew the level of national Democratic attention one would expect for a truly competitive district. Many Democrats hoped that would change this year if they could get a candidate in the runoff.

Susan Wright, who serves on the State Republican Executive Committee, easily had the most institutional and elected official support. Her list of backers grew to include not only Trump but also the SREC — a rare endorsement by the body in a race with multiple Republicans — and eight members of Congress, including six from Texas.

Even with the endorsement, Susan Wright had to confront challenges presented by other Republicans. Despite becoming the target of virtually all attacks on the Republican side, Ellzey built momentum throughout the race and ultimately ended up earning just slightly less votes than Wright in the special election.

There was one Republican candidate who openly rejected Trump: Michael Wood, a Marine Corps combat veteran and Arlington businessman.

In the Democratic field, most fundraising and endorsements were split between Sanchez, the 2018 nominee for the seat; Lydia Bean, a 2020 candidate for a battleground state House seat nearby; and Shawn Lassiter, the leader of an education nonprofit in Fort Worth.

Sanchez had the most national support, including from the political arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Bean stood out as the only candidate with the backing of organized labor, including the Texas AFL-CIO. And Lassiter also drew some national support, while emerging as the strongest fundraiser among the Democrats.

This article was originally posted on Republicans Susan Wright, Jake Ellzey headed to runoff for North Texas congressional district

Sydney Boles