July 29, 2021 — Texas state Rep. Jake Ellzey (R-Waxahachie) tallied an upset win in the TX-6 double-Republican special runoff election Tuesday, defeating the race’s nominal favorite, Susan Wright, widow of the late Congressman Ron Wright (R-Arlington).
While polling and endorsements suggested a Wright victory – the most recent public poll from American Viewpoint released last week projected Wright holding a 10-point, 44-34 percent, advantage – the Ellzey win should be viewed as a mild upset. This is the third election in the four in which Rep-Elect Ellzey was a candidate where he considerably exceeded expectations.
Jake Ellzey, an airline pilot, rancher, and Iraq and Afghan War veteran, first came on the political scene with a surprising second-place finish in the 2018 open seat 6th District congressional primary, forcing then-Tarrant County Tax Assessor Wright into a secondary runoff election. Mr. Wright was viewed as a clear favorite in the follow-up vote but managed only a 52-48 percent win, with Ellzey again out-performing polling and projections. He then immediately came back an easily won an open seat primary and general election in a safe Republican state House of Representatives district.
When Rep. Wright passed away, the special election drew 23 candidates including Ms. Wright and state Rep. Ellzey. Local forecasters were expecting Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez to secure a runoff position against Ms. Wright, possibly even perhaps finishing in first position, but Ellzey again surprised the analysts by edging Sanchez for second place. In the underdog role again, Ellzey recorded a 53-47 percent win.
Several noteworthy points came from the race. First, turnout was very low, only a 38,994 unofficial participation figure. This compares to 78,374 cast ballots in the special jungle primary for a drop-off rate of just over 50 percent. Considering that this was a double-Republican runoff and Democrats had little reason to vote since they had no candidate, such a small return voter figure is not particularly surprising.
Second, the early vote and election day vote proportion were virtually identical. Both Rep. Ellzey and Ms. Wright doubled their early vote total almost exactly. Conversely, in the jungle primary, Ellzey recorded over 70 percent of his total vote in the early phase, while Ms. Wright drew only 42 percent of her aggregate share from those voting prior to election day. Therefore, Ellzey significantly improved his election day operation.
Third, the big change from the jungle primary to the runoff election was the vote from Tarrant County, the district’s largest local entity. In the initial election, Ms. Wright ran strong in rural Navarro County and Ellzey did likewise in his home county of Ellis. This pattern remained consistent Tuesday night.