Special election upset: Jake Ellzey defeats Susan Wright in TX-06 race

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

The results are in for the special election in TX-06 between Susan Wright, widow of Rep. Ron Wright, and Texas state Rep. Jake Ellzey. In an upset, Ellzey defeated Wright. She was the presumed favorite right up until election day on Tuesday. She was the top vote earner in the primary election. Ellzey came in second behind her, barely squeaking out a victory against the third-place candidate, a Democrat.

The run-off race between Wright and Ellzey to fill the seat left vacant by Ron Wright’s death in February was seen as a test of Trump’s endorsement power. This isn’t just Susan Wright’s defeat, it’s also Trump’s defeat. Besides a formal endorsement, Trump did a robocall for Wright and his Make America Great Again Action PAC contributed a last-minute $100,000 campaign ad buy for her campaign. He was also featured in a virtual get-out-the-vote event Sunday. Wright was supported by the Club for Growth who pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign spending in support of her. Wright had the endorsement of Senator Ted Cruz.

Ellzey was endorsed by former Governor Rick Perry, the longest-serving Texas governor. Perry also served in the Trump administration as Energy Secretary. He was also endorsed by Rep. Dan Crenshaw. Crenshaw spoke at Ellzey fundraisers. Former Rep. Joe Barton who resigned under the shadow of a sex scandal, endorsed Ellzey after ugly attack ads paid for by the Club for Growth dragged Barton into the fray. Wright’s campaign consultant called Barton a “disgraced creep”. Barton admitted Wright would make a good congressional representative but was turned off by her refusal to disavow the attacks against him. Barton held the seat for thirty years.

With almost all precincts reporting, Ellzey was carrying more than 53% of the vote. Perhaps endorsements mattered but more along the lines of Texas endorsements. Trump’s influence has been waning in the district even before this special election. The 6th Congressional District has long been a Republican one but has gradually seen changes, as many other districts have, with suburban voters.

The North Texas district won by Ellzey — who narrowly lost the GOP nomination for the seat in 2018 — has long been Republican territory. But Trump’s support in the district had also plummeted: after winning it by double-digits in 2016, he carried it by just 3 percentage points last year, reflecting the trend of Texas’ booming suburbs shifting to purple and, in some places, outright blue.

Ellzey did not run as an anti-Trump Republican, in fact, he was careful not to do that. He’s currently a state representative so he concentrated on his fundraising skills and playing on the endorsement of Rick Perry. Ellzey is a Navy veteran, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy who served as a fighter pilot. He did tours in both Afghanistan and Iraq. He completed his service as the Air Boss on the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier.

Ellzey’s come-from-behind victory is impressive. I confess, I thought Wright would win. Her internal polling showed she was a 12 point favorite. Ellzey barely made the run-off election. He narrowly lost to Ron Wright in the 2018 GOP primary for the seat. That likely makes this victory particularly sweet for Ellzey.

Governor Abbott weighed in with a congratulatory statement.

Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott said in a statement, “Jake will be a strong and effective leader for the people of North Texas and he will fight tirelessly for their values in Washington. I look forward to working alongside Jake as we keep Texas the greatest state in the nation.”