Elections 2021Special Election Heats Up for North Texas’ 6th Congressional District

With the May 1 election day less than two weeks away, candidates from both parties are trying to garner enough support to be one of the top two to make it to a runoff.
April 20, 2021
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Early voting began on Monday to fill the vacancy in Texas’ 6th Congressional District, located in the southwest portion of Tarrant County and Ellis and Navarro counties.

With 23 candidates to formally enter the race, there is no shortage of names on the ballots for voters to choose from.

Given the large slate of Republicans and Democrats running against each other, the likelihood is high that no candidate will receive over 50 percent support to avoid a runoff.

After two months of campaigning, the front-runners have become more clear, though the race is certainly still up in the air.

Since early in the race, Susan Wright and Jana Lynne Sanchez have been viewed as the frontrunners among the Republicans and Democrats in the race, respectively.

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Wright has been actively involved in the Texas GOP and is the widow of Ron Wright, who represented the district until his death in February.

Sanchez previously ran for the district when the seat was open in 2018 but lost to Ron Wright with 45 percent of the vote.

Polling has consistently shown Wright and Sanchez to continue to be the top candidates, but campaign finance reports released on Monday show that the race is becoming more contentious for both parties.

Far from walking away without much opposition for the Republican vote, Wright must compete with at least two other candidates who have risen to the top — state Rep. Jake Ellzey (R-Midlothian) and former Health and Human Services (HHS) chief of staff Brian Harrison.

Both Ellzey and Harrison outraised Wright and are shown close to her in a recent poll released by the Washington Free Beacon.

Special attention has also been given to Ellzey, since he has drawn increasing opposition from the right in the form of the conservative Club for Growth PAC and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).

Sanchez’s competition for the Democratic vote could come from Shawn Lassiter, a former Fort Worth teacher who outraised Sanchez in the recent filing period, and Lydia Bean, who previously ran for a state House seat and has raised a substantial sum. 

Fundraising

A combined total of over $3 million has been raised by candidates in the competitive special election, according to the pre-election campaign and 48-hour notice reports filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

Candidates had a deadline on Monday to file the pre-election report, which covers the amount raised from February 1 through April 11. Candidates are required to file additional 48-hour reports from April 12 through April 28 to indicate individual campaign contributions over $1,000 that they receive.

Out of the $3 million put into the race, two-thirds of the money has gone toward Republican candidates.

Ellzey received the most contributions from individuals out of any candidate, amounting to $493,000, and reported the most cash-on-hand at the end of the period at $400,000.

Harrison raised the next highest amount from individuals with a total of $345,000, but poured the most money into his campaign with a boost from a self-backed $285,000 loan.

Dan Rodimer, a former WWE wrestler who was backed by Trump in an unsuccessful bid at a Nevada congressional seat and moved to Texas to run in the special election, raised a notable $337,000 from individuals.

Wright raised $210,000 from individuals, Mike Egan raised $100,000, and Michael Wood raised $84,000.

On the Democratic side, Lassiter was the top fundraiser, bringing in $301,000 from individuals.

Sanchez and Bean raised the next most from individuals, at $292,000 and $209,000, respectively.

The total receipts, expenditures, and cash-on-hand reported in the pre-election reports, as well as the amount of contributions reported in the 48-hour notices through April 19, can be found below.

Note that candidates who did not file campaign finance reports are not included.

CandidateCash-on-HandExpendituresReceipts48-Hour Reports
Jake Ellzey (R)$400,276.99$103,246.48$503,523.47$20,100.00
Brian Harrison (R)$382,768.19$264,566.18$647,334.37$28,300.00
Dan Rodimer (R)$163,577.43$173,523.51$337,100.94$2,450.00
Susan Wright (R)$128,210.92$158,120.14$286,331.06$25,650.00
Shawn Lassiter (D)$121,188.51$201,066.43$322,254.94$8,800.00
Lydia Bean (D)$108,242.28$114,814.11$223,056.39$9,400.00
Jana Lynne Sanchez (D)$96,193.99$202,813.98$299,007.97$3,000.00
Mike Egan (R)$77,566.49$38,507.96$116,074.45$4,900.00
Michael Wood (R)$74,981.58$23,645.00$98,626.58$14,800.00
Sery Kim (R)$24,181.68$22,741.32$46,923.00$0.00
Patrick Moses (D)$14,596.56$11,417.75$26,014.31$0.00
Tammy Allison (D)$10,023.70$19,533.26$29,556.96$0.00
Daryl Eddings (D)$3,553.96$5,913.10$9,467.06$0.00
Jenny Garcia Sharon (R)$1,337.62$3,498.82$267.79$0.00
Matt Hinterlong (D)-$4,957.06$37,610.06$32,653.00$0.00

Polling

The Washington Free Beacon released a recent poll on the special election in Texas that was conducted from April 11-13.

Matching the presidential vote in the district, 51 percent of the respondents who said that they voted in the 2020 election said that they voted for Donald Trump and 48 percent said they voted for Joe Biden.

Out of all the candidates in the special election, 16 percent of respondents said that they would vote for Sanchez, 15 percent said Wright, 14 percent said Ellzey, and 12 percent said Harrison.

All other candidates received the support of 5 percent or less from respondents, while 23 percent said that they were undecided.

Though Sanchez had the clear lead among Democrats in the poll, a greater portion of Democrats was undecided — 48 percent of respondents knew that they would definitely or probably vote for a particular Republican candidate, while only 27 percent named a Democratic candidate.

In March, Inside Elections reported on two internal Democratic polls that both showed Wright as the clear frontrunner with Sanchez trailing in second.

The first survey, conducted for Sanchez’s campaign, showed Wright ahead with 21 percent support followed by Sanchez with 17 percent.

Also in the poll, Ellzey received 8 percent and Bean received 5 percent, while all other candidates who were listed on the poll took in 3 percent or less and 39 percent of respondents said that they were undecided.

Another poll conducted for the Bean campaign saw similar results, with Wright in the lead with 18 percent and Sanchez trailed with 9 percent.

Ellzey and Bean followed the top two candidates with 8 and 6 percent, respectively.

Notably, the Bean poll included two of the Republicans who were not listed on the Sanchez poll — Harrison and Rodimer, who received 6 and 1 percent, respectively.

In a less formal survey, the Wright campaign released the results of a straw poll conducted at a forum hosted by Republican Women of Arlington and the Arlington Republican Club.

Thirty of the 72 polled attendees said that they felt Wright would best represent the district, while 21 favored Harrison.

Notably, the lead was reversed when attendees were asked who “did the best job of answering the questions and presenting substantial arguments.”

To that question, 26 said Harrison performed the best while 19 still favored Wright.

Endorsements

Wright has led by far in the number of endorsements from political leaders in the district and state, ranging from Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price and Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn to Reps. Kay Granger (R-TX-12) and Chip Roy (R-TX-21).

She also received the endorsement of Roger Severino, a former official in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the Trump administration.

While the endorsement of a former agency official might not be too noteworthy on its own, Severino’s support for Wright was a resurfacing of old rivalries in Trump’s HHS.

Harrison, the former HHS chief of staff, shot back with the endorsement by releasing a list of over 100 former Trump administration officials who backed his campaign.

Notable supporters on the list supporting Harrison included former HHS Secretary Alex Azar, former education secretary Betsy Devos, and the former head of the Small Business Administration, Linda McMahon.

Ellzey has also faced attacks from the conservative Club for Growth PAC, which has put $160,000 into the race so far, framing the Ellis County state representative as an anti-Trump candidate.

More recently, Cruz came out against Ellzey, reportedly saying that his “financial support from never-Trumpers, openness to amnesty, and opposition to school choice should concern Texans looking for a conservative leader.”

In response to the attacks, Ellzey released a video featuring former Governor Rick Perry defending Ellzey as “being for America first for a long time.”

On the Democratic side, Sanchez has received support from some local leaders, such as several Arlington City Council members and state Rep. Michelle Beckley (D-Carrollton), and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ BOLD PAC.

Sanchez has also been backed by a new PAC, Operation 147, which is targeting the seats of the 147 Republicans who voted against the certification of electoral college votes in January.

Lassiter, who worked as a teacher in Fort Worth, has touted the endorsements of several school board officials and has also been backed by the Collective PAC, which supports increasing the number of African Americans elected to public offices.

Bean has been endorsed by the union organizations of the Tarrant County AFL-CIO and the Texas AFL-CIO.

Early voting has already begun in the district ahead of the election day on Saturday, May 1. If no candidate receives over 50 percent of the vote, the top two candidates — regardless of party — will head on to a runoff election that will likely be held in the summer months.

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Daniel Friend

Daniel Friend

Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.