AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Republican Susan Wright of Texas, the widow of the first member of Congress to die after contracting COVID-19, advanced to a U.S. House runoff for her late husband’s seat Saturday night.
But who she will face remained too early to call. With nearly all votes counted, Republican Jake Ellzey led Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez by 354 votes in the race for the second runoff spot in Texas’ 6th Congressional District, which has long been GOP territory.
Ellzey is a state lawmaker who narrowly lost the GOP nomination for the seat in 2018 and carried the backing of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry. It is the second time Sanchez has run for the seat after losing to Ron Wright in 2018.
The date of the runoff has not yet been announced.
Just weeks into his second term, Rep. Ron Wright died in February after being diagnosed with COVID-19. He was 67 and had also been battling lung cancer. Susan Wright, a GOP activist, was quickly seen as a favorite after entering the race and was endorsed by former President Donald Trump days before the election. She led with more than 19% of the vote.
The North Texas district includes the booming corridor between Dallas and Fort Worth, but it also extends to rural counties that have helped the GOP maintain control. But Trump also saw his support in the district plummet in last year’s election, carrying the district by just three points — a sharp fall from his double-digit advantage there in 2016.
Sanchez was among 10 Democrats in the running, but the race attracted virtually no attention from the party nationally after its massive expectations for Texas in 2020 foundered.
Most of the Republicans in the running had made flagrant appeals to Trump and his supporters in a race that at times has resembled a typical Texas GOP primary. The lone exception was Michael Wood, a combat veteran whose campaign was an early test for Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who is trying to lead a revolt in his party away from Trump.
But Wood saw few voters answering his call to reject Trumpism, hovering at around 3% of the vote.