There are no fewer than 11 Republicans running in Saturday’s 6th District special election to replace Rep.Ron Wright, who died of COVID-19 earlier this year. There are also 10 Democrats, one Libertarian, and one Independent in the race. The whole gang will run in what is certain to be the first leg of the race to capture what political pros are calling the only competitive congressional race this year.
A candidate must get at least 50 percent of the vote to win outright — not likely with 23 candidates in the race. Democrats are hoping that at least one of their candidates can crack the top two in order to make the runoff election later this summer.
The district includes Tarrant County (Fort Worth), a slice of Ellis County, and a small sliver of Navarro County. Mitt Romney won by 12 points in 2012 but Donald Trump only won the county by three points last November.
Since this is a special election, turnout will be extremely low. This favors the Republican candidates, of which there are several who have a good chance of succeeding and moving on to the runoff election.
Among the most prominent is GOP activist Susan Wright and state Rep. Jake Ellzey. Wright has been endorsed by Donald Trump, who sounds confident of victory.
“It’s just my honor to also get involved and be involved in this race,” Trump said, touting his partnership with the Club for Growth. “We’ve worked together. We’ve never had a loss together. Every time we’ve gone after someone and, you know, supported and worked for someone, we’ve had victory. So I hope everybody can get out on Saturday, May 1, and vote for Susan Wright.”
Ellzey is a former fighter pilot and a local, having won the Texas House district in Ellis County. He’s also been endorsed by former governor Rick Perry and has outraised almost every other candidate.
All the candidates sought Trump’s coveted endorsement and some are even running on a MAGA platform. There are a couple of minor Trump administration officials who are in the mix, including Brian Harrison, former chief of staff to HHS Secretary Alex Azar. Harrison raised the hackles of other former Trump officials by appearing to claim a closer relationship with the president than he actually had.
Neither Wright or Ellzey have talked much about Trump on the campaign trail, but Trump wanted to make a statement to the national Republican Party that his power is undiminished since leaving office.
Though several Republican candidates were openly running in the MAGA lane, Trump and his legacy didn’t dominate the race until the final weeks. There was a behind-the-scenes jockeying for his endorsement by allies of some leading GOP candidates, and on Monday he made his allegiance known and endorsed Wright, a clear power play that comes with some risk.
Saturday’s voting almost certainly won’t be the final word on the race — in Texas special elections, the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, advance to a runoff if no candidate wins a majority. Prior to receiving Trump’s endorsement, Wright had high name recognition but less campaign cash than her GOP opponents.
In a special election, name recognition is more important than in a regular primary. Trump made a sound political judgment in backing Wright, who may not be the most rabid pro-Trump candidate in the race but is a solid Republican nonetheless.
The Democrats are in danger of splitting their vote between Jana Lynne Sanchez and Shawn Lassiter. In fact, with 10 Democrats in the race, the likelihood of an all-GOP runoff is pretty high.
Trump is testing his influence in the right place. If Wright loses, he can always blame the candidate for running a poor race. If she wins, he’s a political genius. The media will claim Trump is dead no matter what the outcome, but Republicans aren’t paying attention to what the media is saying about the former president so it hardly matters.