While false narratives will cast the defeat of Trump-backed Wright as a rejection of Trump, reality will show simpler reasons for Susan Wright’s loss
Yesterday, the special election runoff election for the vacant TX-06 congressional seat took place.
By 9:45PM CDT last night, the AP had called the race, with state Representative Jake Ellzey (R, Waxahachie) winning the special election over the heavily endorsed Susan Wright, widow of former Congressman Ron Wright who passed away due to complications from COVID and cancer in February of this year.
The initial special election vote took place back on May 1st, with nearly 2 dozen candidates, resulting in two Republicans facing off yesterday since no candidate achieved 50% + 1 majority on May 1st. The special election was a “blanket primary” with all candidates on the ballot under the party label of their choosing. On May 1st, the Democrats were shut out by TX-06 special election voters.
Unlike a Republican primary runoff in Texas where Democrats who cast ballots in initial vote cannot cross party lines and vote in a Republican primary runoff, a special election runoff is open to all voters to participate.
Given less than 9% voter turnout in yesterday’s vote (including early voting), very few voters participated.
Because Wright was endorsed by former President Trump back in late April for this seat, a false narrative was expected to emerge: Wright’s loss to Ellzey, a 1st term state representative who lost the primary runoff to the late Ron Wright in 2018 for the open seat, is a repudiation of Trump.
Indeed, Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R, IL-16) retweeted the following tweet last night as Ellzey’s win was called from CNN reporter Manu Raju:
Let’s recall, Kinzinger had backed a candidate who lost badly in the initial vote as told on McHenry County Blog back in May. Kinzinger stayed out of the Ellzey-Wright runoff election (guess Air Force veterans don’t back Navy veterans?).
So while Kinzinger retweeting the CNN Raju tweet as CNN called the race for Ellzey (within minutes of AP’s official call) can come across as giddiness on his part after his disgusting display at the Special Committee hearing yesterday morning (more on that in a separate article), there are more simple explanations why Ellzey won.
From the desk of John Lopez: The aforementioned low turnout definitely a reason for Wright’s defeat. While the initial voter turnout on May 1st (which was combined with local municipal and school board elections on the ballot that same day) was less than 20%, with any runoff election, it is expected to have fewer voters runout, especially for a runoff nearly 3-months after the initial voting.
Worth noting, Texas law requires a congressional special election runoff to take place over 70 days after the initial election certification, whereas municipal runoffs from May 1st were decided on June 5th.
Quite simply, TX-06 voters didn’t see another reason to go out to vote again as they had done on May 1st and June 5th. One might call expecting some district voters who had to decide various mayoral and/or city council runoffs on June 5th to turn out 3 times within 3 months “voter fatigue”.
In my honest opinion, Wright’s defeat might also be the ending of “widow’s succession”. This happened in 2020 after the passing of Congressman Elijah Cummings (D, MD-07). Cummings’ widow ran in the Democratic primary for MD-07 special election, and lost to former Congressman Kwaisi Mfume, who went on and won election in the special and reelection in the general last year.
So in the 2020s, widow’s succession not playing the part it once did in the early years of the 21st century.
By all accounts from the ground, Ellzey’s campaign, with the support of former Texas Governor Rick Perry and Congressman Dan Crenshaw (R, TX-02), Ellzey overcame the establishment support of Trump as well as the Club for Growth Action super PAC (who spent $1.2 million in the runoff). Ellzey appealed to non-Republican voters and pointed out and asked, in effective text message marketing “Do you want Donald Trump deciding who represents you in Congress?”
Whatever Ellzey did it worked, and he should be congratulated for his impressive win, the mild upset it is.
One of my own pet peeves about the establishment flocking to Wright very early in the special election campaign, was how Wright’s election made the appearance of a “coronation”. Personally, I don’t like coronations and if I were voting in the special election, in spite of my respect for Trump and the Club for Growth, I likely would have voted for Ellzey, too. His experience as a state legislator would have tipped my hand, especially since Ellzey had finished his first regular, biennial session of the Texas Legislature at the end of May.
Then there was the special session this month with the Texas House Democrats leaving the state to D.C. but that is another article, too.
Given the U.S. House will be entering the August recess at the end of the week before the special runoff election can be certified, look for Ellzey to be sworn-in when the House returns to D.C. after Labor Day.
Maybe our Dallas-Fort Worth-based commenter D J can give us his insight, particularly on the TV commercials he would have seen on local TV for the runoff.