Republican Rep. Ron Wright of Texas died Sunday night at the age of 67 after contracting COVID-19.
Wright was a longtime political figure in Tarrant County, which is home to Fort Worth and Arlington. He got his start as a member of the Arlington City Council in 2000, and Wright’s service on the body largely overlapped with his stint as chief of staff and district director to longtime Rep. Joe Barton. Wright went on to become assessor-collector for Tarrant County, and he was for years viewed by local politicos as Barton’s heir apparent whenever the congressman retired.
Wright got his chance to run for the 6th District a bit sooner than expected in 2018, though, after a scandal ended Barton’s plans to run for an 18th term. The incumbent apologized when a graphic nude photo" of him circulated online, and the public learned even more unsavory aspects of Barton’s personal life. Wright soon entered the race to succeed his old boss; Barton, for his part, said that while he planned to support Wright, he was "not sure if anybody would want my endorsement, so I might come out against somebody if that helps them." However, Barton ended up holding events for Wright in both Washington and in the district.
Wright led his main intra-party rival, Navy veteran Jake Ellzey, by a wide 45-22 in the first round of the primary, but he won the runoff only 52-48. The Star-Telegram's Bud Kennedy explained the close result afterward by noting that there were several competitive local races in Ellis and Navarro counties that helped boost turnout in Ellzey's strongest areas, while turnout in Wright's Tarrant County base was bad.
The 6th District had moved from supporting Mitt Romney by a 58-41 margin to backing Donald Trump by a smaller, but still substantial, 54-42 spread in 2016, and Wright always looked like the clear favorite against Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez. The race attracted little outside spending, but Sanchez held Wright to a 53-45 victory as GOP Sen. Ted Cruz was carrying the seat just 51-48.
Democrats nominated attorney Stephen Daniel in 2020, and Team Blue had some optimism that Trump’s decline in suburban areas like this could cost Wright. Ultimately, though, Wright ran ahead of the ticket and won 53-44 as Trump was winning here only 51-48.