Former President Donald Trump was dealt a blow on Tuesday when his candidate, Susan Wright, lost in the Texas runoff election, calling into question how much pull his name has since leaving the White House.
Trump has a winning track record of endorsing candidates and has thrown the weight of his name and his super PAC behind Wright. Tuesday’s election served as an early gauge of Trump’s hold on the GOP and Wright’s loss could be an early sign that the former president doesn’t have the same hold on the party that he had while in office.
State Representative Jake Ellzey led Wright by 2,530 votes with 98 percent of the votes counted when Wright conceded the race, according to the Texas Secretary of State’s office.
Wright began serving as the representative for Texas’ 6th Congressional District after her husband, Representative Ronald Wright, died of COVID-19 in February. She ran as a continuation of her husband’s tenure and on the commitment to gun rights and religious freedom, as well as, securing the border and tax reform.
Trump endorsed Wright days ahead of the special election on May 1 as having the potential to be a “terrific” member of Congress who is strong on the border, crime and pro-life. Wright said she was “honored” to receive Trump’s endorsement and received 19 percent of the vote in the special election, making her the top candidate, followed by Ellzey.
The former president kept up his support of Wright in the months since the special election, calling her an “outstanding” candidate who has his “complete and total endorsement.”
“She will never let you down! Go out and vote for Susan Wright,” Trump said on Monday night.
Trump’s super-PAC dumped $100,000 into last minute ad-buying in an effort to secure Wright’s win, according to the Dallas Morning News. Matthew Langston, Wright’s chief campaign consultant, told the outlet the ads are intended to get Trump voters to the polls. However, Craig Murphy, Ellzey’s chief consultant, saw it as just a confirmation of Trump’s endorsement, which voters knew about going into the election.
Murphy was happy with the support Ellzey had at early voting polling locations and Ellzey significantly outraised Wright. From April 12 to July 7, Wright raised $454,286, according to the Dallas Morning News, and Ellzey raised $1.2 million in that same time period.
Despite not having Trump’s support, Ellzey had support from two of the president’s major supporters—former Governor Rick Perry, who served as his energy secretary, and Representative Dan Crenshaw.
Crenshaw criticized Wright’s campaign for putting out negative ads about Ellzey. A “good friend” of Crenshaw’s, the representative backed Ellzey for voting for constitutional carry, securing the border and being pro-life. He staunchly pushed back on claims that Ellzey was a RINO, a Republican in name only.
The bulk of the Republican Party has backed Trump as the continued leader of the party and polls indicate that Republicans don’t want the party to break with Trump. But, the Texas election marked one of the earliest tests about how Trump’s name would translate to the voting booth.
Wright’s loss is likely to stoke some concerns about Trump’s endorsement hurting candidates looking to win in an election, especially in an election unlike Tuesday’s where there is a Democrat on the ballot. However, it’s too soon to make a certain declaration about what sort of a reflection her loss is on Trump’s hold on the GOP.
In most races, the two candidates will be of different political parties, unlike Tuesday’s election that was down to two Republicans. If Democrats turned out in significant numbers, they could have turned the tide in Ellzey’s favor, as it’s unlikely they’d back the Trump-endorsed candidate. Given the unique circumstances of Tuesday’s election, the real examination of Trump’s influence will be at the primary elections and the 2022 midterms.