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By Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Texas Republican backed by former President Donald Trump has qualified for a run-off to fill a vacant U.S. House of Representatives post left by her husband’s death, while the Democrats were excluded from the competition.
Susan Wright, whose husband Ron Wright in February became the first sitting member of Congress to die of COVID-19, was the top voter on Saturday in a crowded group of 23 candidates vying to represent the 6th Congressional District of the ‘State.
Wright was heading for a runoff against another Republican in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburb, a longtime Republican neighborhood.
Democrats had hoped to take the seat to expand their slim majority in the House. But they admitted on Sunday that they had missed the opportunity.
Wright got 19.2% of the vote, followed by former military fighter pilot Jake Ellzey, another Republican, who drew 13.8%, according to the Texas Secretary of State’s office. Only 354 votes and less than half a percentage point separated Ellzey from Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez, who was in third place with 13.4%.
“Democrats have come a long way to compete in Texas, but we still have a long way to go,” Sanchez, the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants, said in a statement. “Two Republicans will be competing to represent this congressional district.”
Trump, in a statement, praised Wright. “Susan took a leap after I gave her an approval last week,” he said.
A second round between the two best winners is necessary because no candidate obtained a majority in the first round. A release date has not yet been set.
In a bizarre twist on the eve of the election, Wright’s campaign called on federal law enforcement officials to examine reports of robocalls falsely alleging that she had murdered her husband.
The election was the first test of the Texan electorate since President Joe Biden’s election victory in 2020. Trump defeated Biden in Texas, a state where Democrats hope to make inroads.
The result could rob Democrats of their best shot at winning a House seat held by Republicans in several special elections scheduled this year to replace House members who have died, retired, or held positions in the House. Biden’s administration.
The National Democratic Party did not support any contestants, although Democrats have made gains in the North Texas District in recent years. Trump won the district by 3 percentage points last year.
“The Democrats did not bring their people out, and to the extent that they did … they split a large chunk of the Democratic vote,” said Mark Jones, professor of political science at Rice University. .
Jones said Trump’s approval just days before the election appeared to have helped Wright.
There were 10 Democrats in the race, as well as 11 Republicans, one independent and one libertarian. Every seat in the House counts, as Democrats currently have a narrow six-seat majority and will fight to retain control of both Houses of Congress in the 2022 midterm election.