With 23 candidates, special election in Texas is headed for runoff

Still, Wright, whose husband, Ron Wright, died in February, could not avoid a runoff for the state’s 6th Congressional District, which includes mostly rural areas in three Northern Texas counties and a sliver of the nation’s fourth-largest metropolitan region around Dallas, Fort Worth and Arlington.

Written by Dave Montgomery and Edgar Sandoval

Susan Wright, the Republican widow of a congressman who died of COVID-19, emerged Saturday evening as the front-runner in a tight race to replace her husband in Washington.

Still, Wright, whose husband, Ron Wright, died in February, could not avoid a runoff for the state’s 6th Congressional District, which includes mostly rural areas in three Northern Texas counties and a sliver of the nation’s fourth-largest metropolitan region around Dallas, Fort Worth and Arlington.

Wright, who was assisted by a last-minute endorsement from former President Donald Trump, captured about 19% of the vote, far below the 50% required to avoid a runoff. It appeared she was headed to another contest with Jake Ellzey, a fellow Republican. Jana Lynne Sanchez, a Democrat, followed closely behind in third place.

The results disappointed Democrats, who had hoped to tap a reservoir of shifting demographics and Hispanic and African American growth in a district where Trump won by only 3 percentage points in November.

Sanchez, who ran a tight race against Ron Wright in 2018, held an election gathering at her home in Fort Worth and vowed to keep fighting for progressive values. The 6th District was once a Democratic stronghold, until Phil Gramm switched party affiliations in 1983, turning the district into a reliable bastion of Republican strength for decades.

In February, Ron Wright, who had lung cancer, died after he contracted the coronavirus. His wife was an early front-runner to replace him, but her chances of outright victory narrowed after the field grew to 23 candidates, including 11 Republicans, 10 Democrats, a Libertarian and an independent.

The battle took a bizarre turn in the final days when Wright’s backers reported receiving anonymous robocalls that accused her of killing her husband. She immediately sought an investigation by the FBI and the local authorities.

Saturday’s results signaled that Trump continued to have a hold on the Republican Party in Texas months after losing an election he falsely claimed had been stolen from him. Ron Wright had been a vocal ally of Trump and a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.

This is the second time that the widow of a member of Congress who died from COVID sought to keep her husband’s seat. Last month, Julia Letlow, a Republican from Louisiana, avoided a runoff when she secured the seat of her late husband, Luke Letlow, who died before having the chance to represent the district, which includes much of the central part of the historically red state.

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