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Race to replace Texas Republican who died of COVID-19 could get competitive

Special election to for Ron Wright’s 6th District seat set for May 1

A special election has been called for the seat held Rep. Ron Wright, R-Texas, who died on Feb. 7 from complications of COVID-19.
A special election has been called for the seat held Rep. Ron Wright, R-Texas, who died on Feb. 7 from complications of COVID-19. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The race to fill the unexpired term of the late Texas GOP Rep. Ron Wright is expected to come into focus in the coming days, after Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday scheduled a special election for May 1. 

A bevy of Republican candidates had reportedly been waiting for the date to be set, and for Wright’s funeral last weekend, to formally announce their candidacy in the right-leaning 6th District, which stretches from the Dallas-Fort Worth area into the surrounding rural region. 

The potential pool includes Wright’s widow, Susan Wright; state Rep. Jake Ellzey; Katrina Pierson, who served as a spokeswoman for President Donald Trump’s campaign; and Brian Harrison, a top Health and Human Services Department official in the Trump administration, according to local media reports.

Democrats who have already announced bids include Jana Lynne Sanchez, the 2018 Democratic nominee for the seat; Lydia Bean, who ran for the state House in 2020; and Shawn Lassiter, a nonprofit leader and former public school science teacher.

Candidates from both parties will all appear on the same ballot. If no one gets more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two finishers will face in a runoff.

The race is expected to be the most competitive of a handful of special elections in the coming months. Wright, a Republican who was in his second term, died in early February from complications related to COVID-19. 

Voters in Louisiana’s 2nd and 5th Districts will head to the polls on March 20 in special elections to replace Democratic Rep. Cedric Richmond, who resigned in January for a position as an advisor to President Joe Biden; and Republican Rep.-elect Luke Letlow, who died in December from complications related to COVID-19 before he was sworn into office. 

Dates have not been set for elections to replace Democratic Reps. Marcia L. Fudge in Ohio’s 11th District and Deb Haaland in New Mexico’s 1st District. Both are awaiting Senate confirmation for posts in Biden’s cabinet. All of those seats were rated Solid Democratic by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales in the 2020 cycle, except Louisiana’s 5th District, which was rated Solid Republican. 

Wright, who had been undergoing treatment for lung cancer for the past few years, considered himself an ardent conservative and was a member of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus, which typically opposes bipartisan initiatives. 

Democrats targeted the seat in 2020 but Wright won it by 9 points, about the same margin as his win against Sanchez in 2018. Trump carried the district by 3 points in November, according to Daily Kos Elections, down from his 8-point edge over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016.

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