Texas' 6th Congressional District will kick off this year's first competitive special election for the House on Saturday, though we'll almost certainly have to wait until an as yet unscheduled runoff before we know the winner. That's because under state law, all candidates from all parties are running together on a single ballot. In the event that no one captures a majority—which is all but certain, given the enormous 23-person field—the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, will advance to a second round.
Exactly who that lucky twosome might be is difficult to say given the paucity of recent polling and, in any event, the difficulty of accurately surveying the electorate in a special election like this one. The few polls we have seen have all found the same two contenders at the top of the heap: Republican Susan Wright, the widow of the late Rep. Ron Wright (whose death in February triggered this election), and Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez, the party's 2018 nominee who lost to the former congressman by a closer than expected 53-45 margin.
The numbers have all been extremely tight, however, and "undecided" has always remained the most popular choice, while several other candidates have trailed closely behind the frontrunners. On the Republican side, the more notable names include state Rep. Jake Ellzey, former Trump administration official Brian Harrison, and former WWE wrestler Dan Rodimer (who lost a bid for Congress in Nevada last year). For Democrats, also in the mix are educator Shawn Lassiter and businesswoman Lydia Bean, who unsuccessfully ran for a nearby state House district in 2020.
Wright earned what's typically the most important endorsement in GOP circles these days when Donald Trump gave her his blessing on Monday, which could be enough to propel her to the runoff on its own. However, early voting had already been underway been underway for a week, potentially blunting the announcement's effectiveness. What's more, Wright's top Republican rivals, led by Ellzey, have all outraised her. The top outside spender in the race, the Club for Growth, also seems to view Ellzey as a threat, since it's put at least $260,000 into TV ads attacking him. Two other super PACs, meanwhile, have spent $350,000 to boost Ellzey.
There's been less third-party activity on the Democratic side, with two groups spending about $100,000 on behalf of Sanchez, who raised $299,000 in the first quarter, compared to $322,000 for Lassiter and $214,000 for Bean. The biggest concern for Democrats right now may be making the runoff altogether, since there's a chance two Republicans could advance. It's theoretically possible the reverse could happen, but overall, Republicans have dominated in fundraising, collectively taking in $1.7 million to just $915,000 for Democrats.
That disparity may reflect the traditionally conservative lean of the 6th District, which covers much of the city of Arlington but juts out to take in rural areas south of Dallas. The area has always voted Republican, though in 2020, Trump's 51-48 win was by far the closest result the district has produced in a presidential race in many years. Ron Wright, however, ran well ahead of the top of the ticket, defeating Democrat Stephen Daniel 53-44.
To have a chance at flipping this seat, Democrats will need the district's overall trend to the left to continue, though first, of course, they'll need to make sure one of their candidates gets to the runoff. Precisely when that second round might happen is unknown, though, because Texas law only permits runoffs to be scheduled after an initial election takes place.