Texas holds special election to replace Rep. Wright, who died of COVID
In Texas, even the ballots are bigger.
Saturday’s special election in the state’s 6th Congressional District is a bipartisan, 23-candidate scrum — with the shadow of President Trump looming over Republicans and Democrats alike.
Trump this week waded into the race to replace Republican Rep. Ron Wright — who died of coronavirus complications in February at age 67 — with a full-throated endorsement of Susan Wright, the congressman’s widow.
Texans, Trump said in a tele-town hall Thursday night, “need [her] now more than ever, if you look at your border, if you look at what’s happening” — calling attention to the Biden administration’s border crisis, which has infuriated Lone Star State voters.
Unless one candidate notches more than 50 percent of the vote — an unlikely prospect in such a crowded field — Saturday’s top two vote-getters will battle it out in a runoff election later this spring.
“I’d be surprised if Trump’s endorsement does not propel Susan Wright into the runoff, at least,” GOP strategist Ford O’Connell told The Post.
Ron Wright, who had been battling lung cancer, was positioning his wife to take his place months before his death.
But the results of the 2020 election scrambled expectations in the formerly deep-red district south of Dallas-Fort Worth — a suburban area that, while still largely Republican, has been trending in the Democrats’ direction.
Wright won re-election by a comfortable 9-point margin in November, but Trump underperformed, beating Democrat Joe Biden by just 3 points.
That inspired 10 Democrats to leap into the race in hopes of flipping the seat — along with 11 Republicans, most of them Trump supporters who have carried on a bruising battle among themselves. An independent and a Libertarian round out the field.
“To win, district Democrats have to coalesce around one candidate — but they have just as many horses running,” O’Connell said. “If they don’t pick one of them, it could easily end up being two Republicans in the runoff race.”
On the GOP side, Susan Wright’s supporters have slammed state representative Jake Ellzey, her best-known rival, as a Trump skeptic who accepted donations from presidential antagonist Bill Kristol. Two former Trump administration officials, Brian Harrison and Sery Kim, rushed in to claim his mantle.
Dan Rodimer, a former professional wrestler who nabbed Trump’s blessing for an unsuccessful congressional run in Nevada last year, has been touting that credential in an embarrassingly fake Texas drawl. And a lone “never Trump” Republican, Michael Wood, won the backing of Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney and other GOP dissidents who voted to impeach Trump in January — but raised less than $100,000, a pittance compared to his competitors.
In an off-year special election, when only the most motivated turn out to vote, “This race is all about the rise of the Republican grass roots,” O’Connell said.
“It’s not that Donald Trump controls the Republican Party — it’s that the grass roots control the Republican Party,” he said. “And the base still loves Donald Trump and his agenda.”
Wright’s loss was the second COVID-19 casualty suffered by the Republican congressional delegation, following the December death of Louisiana Rep.-elect Luke Letlow at age 41.
Letlow’s widow, Julia Letlow, won a March special election to succeed her husband — after gaining an enthusiastic endorsement from Trump.