The Slatest

Congressman’s Widow Takes First Place in House Race in Texas

A plane flies across the sky beside the U.S. Capitol dome in Washington, D.C. on January 15, 2020.
A plane flies across the sky beside the U.S. Capitol dome in Washington, D.C. on January 15, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner/File Photo

The widow of the first member of Congress to die after contracting COVID-19 won first place in a special election for her late husband’s seat. Republican Susan Wright, whose husband, Ron Wright, died in February obtained 19.2 percent of the vote, still far less than the 50 percent required to avoid a runoff. She will now face off against a fellow Republican, Jake Ellzey. That means Democrats have been fully locked out of the race for the state’s Sixth Congressional District that Donald Trump carried by just three points last year after winning it by 12 points in 2016. It marked a big disappointment for Democrats who saw the district as an example of traditional GOP strongholds that could begin to sway Democrat amid changing demographics.

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Republican Jake Ellzey had 13.8 percent, a slight edge of 0.4 percent, or 354 votes, over Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez in the chaotic election that had 23 candidates, including 11 Republicans, 10 Democrats, a Libertarian, and an independent. “Nothing could be a worse omen for the Democratic Party than to have a winnable district like this with two Republicans in the runoff,” Sanchez said in an interview last month. “That would be very embarrassing and very disheartening.” On Sunday, Sanchez acknowledged defeat, saying her campaign “came up short.” “

Wright died in February, weeks into his second term and his wife was long seen as the favorite. She got a big boost last week when Trump decided to join the fray and publicly backed Wright, giving her an advantage over the other candidates who were running as allies of the former president. Only one of the Republican contenders, Michael Wood, ran on an explicitly anti-Trump platform and he only got 3 percent of the vote. In the final days of the campaign, Wright was the victim of a false robocall condemned by several campaigns that accused her of killing her husband for the life insurance payout.

This marks the second time the widow of a member of Congress who died from the coronavirus won an election to take on her husband’s seat. Julia Letlow, a Republican from Louisiana, straight up won the race in March to take over the seat left vacant by her late husband, Luke Letlow, who died of COVID-19 complications days before he was scheduled to take office.

*This story has been updated with new information since it was first published.

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