In a major upset against a candidate backed by Donald Trump, Jake Ellzey wins runoff for Fort Worth-area congressional seat
Ellzey, a state representative, beat fellow Republican Susan Wright, who was backed by former President Donald Trump. Ellzey will finish the term of Ron Wright, who died earlier this year after contracting COVID-19.
Sign up for The Brief, our daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.
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.
“One of the things that we’ve seen from this campaign is a positive outlook — a Reagan Republican outlook for the future of our country — is what the people of the 6th District really, really want,” said Ellzey, who had faced a storm of attacks from Susan Wright’s side.
Susan Wright congratulated Ellzey in a tweet later Tuesday night.
“Special elections are special, and this one was no exception,” she said.
The special election runoff was to finish Ron Wright’s term in the 6th Congressional District, a Republican-leaning district in North Texas. Ron Wright died earlier this year after contracting COVID-19.
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 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 Club for Growth said Tuesday morning that it had poured $1.2 million into the runoff, easily making it the top outside spender in the overtime round. In its advertising, the national group emphasized Trump’s endorsement of Susan Wright and hammered Ellzey over his attendance record in the Texas House and accused him of voting for a tax hike there, which he denied.
Wright’s campaign expressed confidence in the homestretch, though there was a late increase in outside spending on her behalf, including from a Trump-aligned super PAC. Ellzey’s campaign, meanwhile, appeared to appeal to Democrats with last-minute texts that touted him as “pro-public education” and noted his opponent’s Trump backing.
During the rally Monday night, Trump stressed that Susan Wright was the “only one” he had endorsed in the runoff and boasted about the Democratic lockout after the May 1 election.
“Susan, Ron is looking down on you,” he said, “and he’s very, very proud right now.”
Ellzey’s victory is the latest chapter in a complicated history between him and the Wrights. He first ran for the congressional seat in 2018, battling Ron Wright in a primary runoff and losing by a small margin. They appeared to bury the hatchet, though, when Ron Wright, after getting elected to Congress, gave Ellzey an early endorsement in his successful 2020 campaign for the state House. But things seemed to sour again when Ellzey did not give the late congressman’s widow a pass and jumped into the special election to replace him within weeks of being sworn in to the Texas House.
Ellzey’s ascension to Congress means that Gov. Greg Abbott will have to call a special election to fill his seat in Texas House District 10, a reliably Republican district. The runner-up to Ellzey in the 2020 GOP primary for HD 10, Ryan Pitts, said late Tuesday night that he has received “strong encouragement” to run for the seat again and would announce his plans in the coming days.
Join us Sept. 20-25 at the 2021 Texas Tribune Festival. Tickets are on sale now for this multi-day celebration of big, bold ideas about politics, public policy and the day’s news, curated by The Texas Tribune’s award-winning journalists. Learn more.
Quality journalism doesn't come free
Perhaps it goes without saying — but producing quality journalism isn't cheap. At a time when newsroom resources and revenue across the country are declining, The Texas Tribune remains committed to sustaining our mission: creating a more engaged and informed Texas with every story we cover, every event we convene and every newsletter we send. As a nonprofit newsroom, we rely on members to help keep our stories free and our events open to the public. Do you value our journalism? Show us with your support.Yes, I'll donate today