Republican operative Susan Wright advances in the 23-candidate jungle primary as Democrats risk being shut out of the runoff as Republican state Representative Jake Ellzey holds a slim lead for second place.
(CN) — The widow of a Republican Texas congressman who died after contracting Covid-19 advanced Saturday evening to a runoff election to replace him, while second place remains too close to call in a reliable red district that has slowly trended blue.
Susan Wright was the winner of the special election for Texas’ 6th Congressional District, receiving 15,052 votes from 19.21% of voters with all precincts reporting. A long-time Republican operative, Wright formerly worked as a district director for two Texas state legislators.
Wright would have won the seat outright if she received over 50% of the vote, but a crowded 23-candidate field in the jungle primary made that highly unlikely.
Her opponent in the yet-to-be scheduled runoff will be either Republican state Representative Jake Ellzey or Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez. A former Navy fighter pilot, Ellzey received 10,851 votes from 13.85% of voters, while journalist and Democratic fundraiser Sanchez received 10,497 votes from 13.39% of voters.
Party primary rules do not apply in this election, so Republicans Wright and Ellzey would face each other in the runoff if the preliminary results hold.
The 6th District is located in the fast-growing suburbs in-between and south of Dallas and Fort Worth, stretching from southeast Tarrant County into Ellis and Navarro counties. It includes parts of Fort Worth, Arlington and towns south of Dallas. The district has been reliably Republican for decades, but Democrats have slowly closed the gap in recent elections as formerly rural areas become suburban.
Congressman Ron Wright died in February, shortly after being sworn in for his second term and catching Covid-19. Both Ellzey and Sanchez have previously failed to defeat the congressman for his seat, with the former losing in the 2018 Republican primary while Sanchez lost in the general election months later.
His widow has been the odds-on favorite to win the jungle primary since March. She picked up coveted support from President Donald Trump last week, who gave her a “complete and total” endorsement.
Wright’s win came one day after she denounced reports that voters in the district received anonymous robocalls accusing her of “murdering” her husband by exposing him to the virus. She said the robocalls were “illegal, immoral and wrong.”
“There’s not a sewer too deep that some politicians won’t plumb,” Wright tweeted. “Imagine it: someone is attacking my late husband, the love of my life, a man who gave me such joy in life. I will not let darkness rule.”
The minute-long robocall claimed Wright “obtained a $1 million life insurance policy on the life of her husband” six months before his death and cited “confidential sources,” Politico reports. The robocall allegedly said Wright is “now running for Congress to cover it up” and did not have a “paid for by” identification at the end.
Wright’s campaign has since referred the matter to the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office, Justice Department and the FBI. Her campaign manager, Matt Langston, blasted her opponents as being “desperate” and of “resorting to disgusting gutter politics” because she was leading the race.
Congressman Wright’s death came two months after Louisiana Congressman-elect Luke Letlow, 41, died from Covid-19 before he was sworn into office. A special election to fill Letlow’s seat was held in March and was won by his widow Julia, an academic administrator.