Susan Wright, who received Donald Trump’s endorsement to fill an open congressional seat previously held by her husband before his death from Covid-19, will enter an all-Republican runoff election in Texas after her Democrat contender left the race.
GOP candidates Wright and Jake Ellzey will advance to the runoff for the state’s 6th congressional district following a primary election battle among 23 candidates.
Susan Wright received 19 per cent of the vote in Saturday’s election, followed by Mr Ellzey, with nearly 14 per cent. Democratic candidate Jana Lynne Sanchez received 13 per cent of the vote, shy of roughly 400 votes to qualify in the runoff.
“Democrats have come a long way toward competing in Texas, but we still have a way to go,” she announced on Sunday. “Unfortunately, tonight we came up short.”
Ron Wright – a member of the far-right Freedom Caucus who supported efforts to reject 2020’s presidential election results – was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2019. He and his wife were hospitalised for Covid-19 for two weeks after testing positive for the disease in January. He died on 7 February, becoming the first sitting member of Congress to die from the coronavirus.
Louisiana congressman-elect Luke Letlow, who was set to be sworn into office in January, died on 29 December from Covid-19. In March, his widow Julie Letlow won a special election to fill his seat.
The Texas race was among the first hotly contested special elections under Joe Biden’s presidency ahead of 2022 midterm elections.
Republicans have held the district – spanning a sprawling suburban enclave in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area – for more than 30 years, but the area has seen a decline in Republican dominance within the last two decades, with a Democratic candidate poised to enter a runoff race in future congressional elections.
“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 Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement on Sunday.
In the 2012 presidential race, then-Republican candidate Mitt Romney won the district by 17 per cent, compared to Mr Trump taking it by only 3 percentage points in 2020.
The district includes three Texas counties, from pro-Trump rural areas to one of the largest metro areas in the nation, which has seen growing Hispanic and African American political power.
Texas will gain two congressional seats in 2022 following the once-in-a-decade Census results, revealing that the state saw its population spike by nearly 4 million people over the last decade to roughly 29.2 million residents.
The state currently has 36 seats, currently held by 22 Republicans and13 Democrats, with one vacant seat in the 6th district.
Elections for those seats and several other new seats in Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon will likely kick off a flurry of campaigns as candidates and Republicans look to shift the balance of power in Congress.