Special election will fill U.S. House seat

Gov. Abbott to call vote to replace late Ron Wright; date to be determined

Bill Spinks
Midlothian Mirror
U.S. Congressman Ron Wright (R-Arlington) visits the Waxahachie Daily Light offices in December 2019. Wright died Sunday night of complications from COVID-19 at the age of 67.

As Texans mourn the passing of U.S. Congressman Ron Wright, the wheels will soon begin to turn in the process of filling his vacant U.S. House District 6 seat.

Wright, 67, died Feb. 7 from complications of COVID-19. He was the first sitting member of Congress to die of the disease. Wright, a stage-4 lung cancer survivor who was battling a re-emergence of his cancer, had been admitted to the hospital twice because of pneumonia related to his cancer treatments in the previous year.

Wright will lie in repose on Friday from 2-7 p.m. at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, followed by his funeral service on Saturday at 11 a.m. at Will Rogers Memorial Center’s Texas Ballroom in Fort Worth. Both events are open to the public.

In the meantime, Gov. Greg Abbott will call a special election to fill Wright's seat, but that date has not been established. Under state law, Abbott can schedule the election for the next uniform election date — May 1 — or earlier under certain circumstances.

In 2018, Abbott called for an emergency election when U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, resigned amid a sexual harassment scandal in his office. According to the Austin American-Statesman, Abbott cited ongoing recovery from Hurricane Harvey as the reason for calling for an emergency special election.

The special election will by law follow a “jungle” format, where all declared candidates from all parties will appear on the same ballot. If no candidate obtains a clear majority, the top two vote-getters would advance to a June 5 runoff.

Who might run?

Even before an election is set, some election-watchers have already begun to speculate who might throw their hats into the ring to replace Wright. With Democrats holding a slim majority in the U.S. House, this race promises to draw national attention.

One possible GOP candidate is newly-elected Texas House District 10 Rep. Jake Ellzey of Midlothian, who lost to Wright in the 2018 Republican primary runoff. Other Republicans who have been mentioned are state House District 96 first-term Rep. David Cook of Mansfield, Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn and current Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams.

On the Democratic side, Ellis County native Jana Lynne Sanchez of Fort Worth, who was nominated and lost to Wright in the 2018 general election, has already announced her campaign.

Waxahachie attorney Stephen Daniel, who won the party nomination but lost to Wright in the November election, has also expressed interest in running. State Rep. Chris Turner of Grand Prairie, the Texas House minority leader, and state Sen. Beverly Powell of Burleson are other possibilities.

District 6, which was represented for 34 years by Ennis Republican Joe Barton, has been reliable for GOP candidates in the past. However, the district as a whole has been trending purple in recent years. Wright won his first U.S. House election by 8 percentage points over Sanchez in 2018, but picked up less than 53 percent of the district-wide vote against Daniel and two third-party candidates in the 2020 balloting.

Most of the changes in voting patterns have taken place in the mostly-suburban Tarrant County portion of the district, which includes the cities of Arlington and Mansfield and part of Fort Worth. Ellis County itself stayed solidly red in the November vote, favoring Republican candidates across the board by roughly a 2-to-1 margin.

Redistricting in 2022 based on new census figures could change the makeup of this district further. Texas is projected to gain at least three new U.S. House seats because of population growth.