FORT WORTH, Texas — An open North Texas congressional seat will continue to be represented by a Republican after Democrats were shut out of a runoff spot.
The special election for Texas' 6th Congressional District was widely considered a barometer of sorts for former President Donald Trump's weight among voters. Trump even made a last-minute pitch for his candidate of choice, Susan Wright, announcing his endorsement during voting.
His candidate made the cut, as did fellow Republican Jake Ellzey, who edged Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez by less than 400 votes. There are still absentee and provisional votes being tallied. A special election for the seat was called following the death of U.S. Rep. Ron Wright after battles with lung cancer and COVID-19.
"The signal Trump sent to Republican primary voters was that Susan Wright is his candidate, and that was what really helped ... provide her with separation from the other Republican candidates," said Rice University political science professor Mark Jones.
Wright, the widow of Ron Wright, received 19.2% of the votes, according to unofficial numbers from the Texas Secretary of State. Ellzey, a state representative, garnered 13.9% and Sanchez 13.4%. There were 11 Republicans, 10 Democrats, an independent and a Libertarian running for the seat, which spans most of Arlington and Mansfield and all of Ellis and Navarro counties.
"Democrats have come a long way toward competing in Texas but we still have a way to go," Sanchez said in a Monday morning statement. "Unfortunately, tonight we came up short, and two Republicans will be competing to represent this Congressional district."
The North Texas congressional district has seen narrowing margins between the Republican and Democratic candidates in recent presidential races, with Trump winning the district by 3 points in 2020 against President Joe Biden. Tarrant County went for Biden in November. Ellis and Navarro turned out for Trump. Wright earned the most votes in Tarrant County in the special election, 17.4%, followed by Sanchez's 15.7%.
"Although a Democrat is not advancing to the runoff, yesterday's incredibly close margins showed that voters are invested in electing Democrats, and are fighting for the representation their communities deserve," Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement.
A Democrat could have made it into a runoff had the party's votes not been divided between candidates, Jones said. Democrat Shawn Lassiter, a nonprofit leader and former teacher, revived 8.9% of the votes, followed by Democrat Tammy Allison who got 5.4%.
"With two strong Republicans candidates, Ellzey and Wright, Democrats could not afford to effectively fragment their vote," Jones said.