Trump-backed candidate loses GOP Texas congressional seat runoff in major upset
President Donald Trump (Screen cap).
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 93% of precincts reporting, Decision Desk HQ called the race for Ellzey late Tuesday, when he had 52.92% of votes to 47.08% for Wright, a longtime GOP activist.

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," Ellzey said.

Susan Wright congratulated Ellzey in a tweet later Tuesday night.

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.

"I will never forget the kindness the people of #TX06 have shown Ron & I for so many years. Thank you," Susan Wright said in the same tweet in which she wished Ellzey well.

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 on 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.

Gov. Greg Abbott, who had stayed out of the race, issued a statement congratulating Ellzey on his "hard-fought victory."

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.

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