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By Paul J. Weber
Republican Jake Ellzey of Texas won a U.S. House seat on Tuesday night over a rival backed by Donald Trump, dealing the former president a defeat in a test of his endorsement power since leaving office.
Ellzey’s come-from-behind victory over Republican Susan Wright, the widow of the late Rep. Ron Wright, in a special congressional election runoff near Dallas is likely to be celebrated by Trump antagonists who have warned against his continued hold on the GOP. Trump backed Wright from the start and had made one last attempt to give her a boost with a telephone rally Monday night.
Ellzey was carrying more than 53% of the vote in Texas’ 6th Congressional District with results from almost all precincts reported.
“One of things that we’ve seen from this campaign is a positive outlook, a Reagan Republican outlook, for the future of our country is what the people of the 6th District really really want,” Ellzey said to supporters following his victory.
Ellzey is a Republican state legislator who finished a second to Wright in May, and who only narrowly made the runoff over a Democrat. The seat opened up following the death of Ron Wright, who in February became the first member of Congress to die after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
Far from running on an anti-Trump platform, Ellzey did not try distancing himself from the twice-impeached former president. He instead sought to overcome the lack of Trump’s backing by raising more money and showing off other endorsements, including the support of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Trump had endorsed Susan Wright early in the special election and recorded a robocall for her late in the runoff. Make America Great Action, a political action committee chaired by former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, also made a $100,000 ad buy over the weekend.
But the outcome may show the limits of his influence with voters. Republicans have continued making loyalty to Trump paramount since his defeat in November, even as Trump continues to falsely and baselessly assert that the election was stolen.
The North Texas district won by Ellzey — who narrowly lost the GOP nomination for the seat in 2018 — has long been Republican territory. But Trump’s support in the district had also plummeted: after winning it by double-digits in 2016, he carried it by just 3 percentage points last year, reflecting the trend of Texas’ booming suburbs shifting to purple and, in some places, outright blue.
Ron Wright, who was 67 and had lung cancer, was just weeks into his second term when he died. Susan Wright had also been diagnosed with COVID-19 and at one point was hospitalized with her husband.