TX-6: Double R Runoff

By Jim Ellis

Susan Wright

May 4, 2021 — Republicans are guaranteed to hold Texas’ vacant 6th Congressional District in the succeeding runoff election as two GOP candidates advanced from the 23-person jungle primary election on Saturday night. Susan Wright, widow of late Congressman Ron Wright (R-Arlington), finished first, as expected, with just over 19 percent of the vote.

Accompanying Wright into the runoff contest is freshman state Rep. Jake Ellzey (R-Waxahachie). He scored a vote percentage of 13.9 in slipping past the top Democrat, 2018 congressional nominee Jana Lynne Sanchez, who finished just 354 votes behind in third place.

Ellzey was elected to the legislature in November, but immediately jumped into the congressional race when Rep. Wright passed away. In 2018, Ellzey ran for the 6th District open seat when veteran Rep. Joe Barton (R) retired, finishing second and forcing Rep. Wright, then the Tarrant County Tax Assessor, into a runoff election. Rep. Wright won the runoff 52-48 percent, which was a much closer finish than initially anticipated.

The Saturday night primary proved big for Republicans. Combined, their candidates received 61.9 percent of the 78,374 votes cast according to the initial final count. Democrats finished well below expectations with only a combined 37.3 percent split among their 10 candidates.

These totals are quite different than Rep. Wright’s victory margins in both 2020 and 2018, when he recorded almost identical splits of 53-44 percent and 53-45 percent, respectively. Former President Donald Trump carried the district with a 51-48 percent spread in November but a much stronger 54-42 percent in 2016.

The latest presidential results, coupled with Rep. Wright failing to reach even 54 percent in either of his elections gave, the Democrats hope of competing for the special election. Their fortunes turned sour, however, when voter participation was lower than expected. It becomes clear when looking at the partisan splits that Democratic turnout dropped precipitously when matched with the 2020 vote.

Comparing to the two other special elections held in Louisiana earlier this year, the Texas race turnout fell under both of the contests decided in the neighboring state. Louisiana’s 5th District that elected Rep. Julia Letlow (R-Start/Alexandria) outright featured a turnout of 103,616. The 2nd CD, which would eventually elect state Sen. Troy Carter (D-New Orleans), produced a participation figure of 94,567. Therefore, the TX-6 total of 78,374 voters is 17 percent below even the lower of the two special election primaries conducted on March 20.

After the Texas results become official, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) will schedule the runoff election. It is probable that we will see the succeeding vote placed on a Saturday in late June.

The secondary election now assumes a very different tenor as two Republicans will be fighting to argue who is the most conservative. It is likely we will see certain outside right-of-center organizations, such as the Club for Growth, return to again run a negative expenditure effort against Rep. Ellzey as they did in the jungle primary.

At the outset, Ms. Wright will be favored to win the special runoff, but Ellzey has been underestimated in each of his political races to this point. Therefore, the runoff should yield an interesting campaign.

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