CNN projected Wright would take the first spot in the runoff, but Ellzey and Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez had been locked in a tight race for second.
“Democrats have come a long way toward competing in Texas but we still have a long way to go. Unfortunately, tonight we came up short, and two Republicans will be competing to represent this Congressional district,” Sanchez wrote. “We’ll keep fighting for a healthier, equitable and prosperous Texas and to elect leaders who care about meeting the needs of Texans, although it won’t happen in this district immediately.”
Two Republicans going to the runoff denies Democrats a chance to expand their narrow majority.
Susan Wright is Ron Wright’s widow. She received a boost earlier this week when former President Donald Trump endorsed her over the ten other Republicans in the race. Wright has focused much of her campaign on her husband’s legacy, but was also quick to promote the President’s endorsement.
The special election was a test case for how much traction an anti-Trump, anti-conspiracy theory message could get in a red district. But the fact that only one Republican candidate was denouncing Trump and conspiracy theories underscored how firm a hold the former President still has on his party.
Sanchez, who has worked as a journalist and in communications, was the Democratic candidate for the seat in 2018.
Ellzey is a Navy veteran who lost to Ron Wright in the 2018 primary. He represents a state House district south of Dallas and has had the support of former Texas governor and Energy Secretary Rick Perry.
While Ron Wright was reelected by 9 percentage points in 2020, the 6th District has been trending more Democratic in recent elections. In 2012, Mitt Romney carried the district with a 17-percentage point margin. Trump won it by 12 percentage points in 2016 but by only 3 last year.
An outspoken anti-Trump Republican, Michael Wood ran on a message that put him far outside the mainstream of the GOP. Wood called for Republicans to reject Trump and stop perpetuating conspiracy theories like the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen and QAnon, which is frequently described as a virtual cult. He had the backing of the most vocal Republican Trump critic in Congress, GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger.
Twenty-three candidates from all parties ran on the same ballot in the Saturday contest. Since none of them cleared 50%, the two top candidates will head to a runoff election as required by state law. The date for that election has yet to be scheduled.
This story has been updated to include Jana Lynne Sanchez’s concession.