I confess, I had totally forgotten about this.
State Rep. Jake Ellzey of Waxahachie beat fellow Republican Susan Wright on Tuesday to succeed her late husband, U.S. Rep. Ron Wright, R-Arlington, and pull off a major upset against a candidate backed by former President Donald Trump.
With all precincts reporting Wednesday morning, Ellzey got 53% of the vote, while Susan Wright, a longtime GOP activist, received 47%, according to unofficial results.
Ellzey declared victory in a speech shortly after 9 p.m., addressing supporters in Ennis.
Susan Wright and Ellzey came out on top of a May 1 special election that featured 21 other candidates. She finished first with 19% of the vote, while Ellzey got 14%.
Trump endorsed Susan Wright in the final days before the May 1 election. He got more involved in the runoff, issuing three statements reiterating his endorsement, starring in a robocall for her and headlining a telephone rally for her on Monday night.
Ellzey relied on support from former Gov. Rick Perry and U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Houston, a fellow Navy veteran who came off the sidelines in the runoff. Perry and other Ellzey allies suggested Trump had been misled into endorsing Susan Wright.
National attention on the race dimmed after Democrats narrowly missed the runoff, a disappointment for the party in a district that Trump won by only 3 percentage points last year. But Ellzey kept things competitive in the intraparty matchup, significantly outraising Susan Wright during the latest campaign finance reporting period and rallying his supporters against a barrage of attacks from the pro-Wright Club for Growth.
The DMN goes into the campaign and the Trump effect.
Ellzey’s victory was a blow to former President Donald Trump, who endorsed Wright over the objections of several major Texas Republicans, including former Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Trump is perceived to be the leader of the Republican Party, both nationally and locally, and the 6th Congressional District race was a test of his political clout in his post presidency. Though he didn’t campaign for Wright in Texas, he hosted two tele-rallies on her behalf, but couldn’t push her past Ellzey.
The contest, which featured two Republican candidates, was largely a test on whether Trump is still the most influential player in the Republican Party.
His backing of Wright is believed to have helped her in Ellis and Navarro counties, both Republican strongholds easily carried by Trump in his presidential elections, and where Ellzey, who lives in Waxahachie, had hoped to establish a beachhead. He represents a Texas House district that is anchored in Ellis County.
Wright won Trump’s endorsement upon the advice from officials at the Club for Growth, and his belief, according to several with knowledge of his decision, that Wright had a built-in advantage because she’s the widow of Ron Wright.
In the days leading up to the general election, Trump stepped up his outreach to voters, twice restating his endorsement of Wright, recording automatic phone calls that went throughout the district and advertising through his super PAC on television.
Ellzey’s biggest challenge was to overcome Trump’s endorsement, and he struggled at times to find an answer to why the former president saw fit to get involved in the race.
For most of the campaign, Ellzey, with surrogates like Perry, appealed to base Republican voters. But days before the election he sent campaign mailers to Democratic Party voters in the district. Those mailers, along with text messages voters received from some source, portrayed Ellzey as a fighter for public education, while pointing out that Wright is endorsed by Trump.
It’s possible that Ellzey was able to mine Democratic voters who otherwise would have skipped a race featuring two Republicans. Wright’s campaign had already been pounding Ellzey as a tool for Democrats, so he couldn’t openly court those voters until the final days of his campaign.
“He would like it if Democrats vote for him, but he sure doesn’t want to go out on a date with one,” Democratic strategist Matt Angle said of Ellzey’s imagery.
There was some discourse, mostly on Twitter, about how this result was a referendum on Trump and his influence. I would advise anyone to take that with an extreme grain of salt, as we should always be at least a little skeptical of special election and runoff results. That said, if Wright had won, Trump would be crowing about it, and the received wisdom would be that his influence was the difference maker. That would have been way overblown as well, but to the extent that one accepts that premise, it’s worth keeping the counterexample in mind.
Ellzey’s last-minute campaign pitch to Democrats was a smart play. They were obviously not the main targets in the race, but this wasn’t a primary runoff and they were allowed to participate. One might also recall that CD06 is (at least as currently drawn) a purple district, one in which Joe Biden got 48% of the vote. In other words, there were plenty of Dems to court, even with a very simple message, and that could be a big deal in an otherwise close race. If what Dem voters got out of it was a finger in the eye to Trump, it was worth it. As relationships go, this was a total one-night stand, but it got Ellzey where he wanted to go.
One more thing:
FYI: When Congressman-Elect Ellzey is sworn in, that puts us another member down for quorum in the Texas House #txlege
— Scott Braddock (@scottbraddock) 10:42 PM – 27 July 2021
It doesn’t change the math directly – 51 missing Democrats still make for a lack of quorum – but if a couple of Republicans are not there as well, for whatever the reason, then you’d need more Democrats to be back to get to the minimum number of 100 present members. I would normally expect the special election to replace Ellzey in the House (his district is HD10) to be this November, but it’s possible Greg Abbott will expedite it because of the forthcoming special session(s) on redistricting. We should know for sure in a couple of weeks. Daily Kos has more.