Sign up for The Brief, our daily newsletter that keeps readers up to date with the most essential Texas news.
In Texas, the most coveted award for a Republican candidate these days is an endorsement from Donald Trump.
Jake Ellzey did not have it in Tuesday’s second round of special election for the 6th Congressional District.
Still, the Waxahachie state representative is fighting from behind, hoping voters will look past the former president’s support for his opponent, Susan Wright, and reward what he and his allies insist on being a candidate. and a senior campaign. It’s a tough bet with Trump’s popularity still so high among Texas Republicans, but it’s a bet Ellzey is making, armed with a more positive message, his own cast of loyal supporters and a significant fundraising advantage.
“I did nothing other than congratulate her on that endorsement,” Ellzey said in a recent interview when asked about the challenge of facing a fellow Trump-backed Republican. However, Ellzey was quick to take note of his own list of sponsors, which includes former Gov. Rick Perry and US Representative Dan Crenshaw from Houston, and added, âYou have to couple the backing with being a good candidate and being a good candidate. good campaign and attract voters at the end of the day. “
Ellzey and Wright are in the running to succeed her late husband, U.S. Representative Ron Wright, of R-Arlington, in the Republican-leaning 6th District of North Texas. Democrats had hoped to qualify for the second round, but narrowly missed it in the May 1 special election, which resulted in a low-stakes overtime round pitting one Republican against another.
The runoff is always dramatic. The Club for Growth, the national anti-tax group, pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into the runoff attacking Ellzey, branding him liberal and drawing increasingly harsh rebuttals from Ellzey and his allies who otherwise avoided Wright’s direct criticism.
“Nothing pisses me off more than the garbage I’ve seen in mailboxes talking about [Ellzey], and if you want to win such a bad election, I don’t want you to be my congressman, âPerry said at a rally with Ellzey and Crenshaw last week in Arlington.
“If you allow the Club for Growth to publish the absolute garbage they threw at Jake Ellzey and you don’t stand up and tell them to stop him, that’s unacceptable, then that tells me all that I need to know about you, that you’re not a leader, “Perry added.” Susan Wright has to stand up and say, ‘Club for Growth, cut it.’ You’re lying about Jake Ellzey.
In a statement for this story, Club for Growth president David McIntosh did not shy away from the group’s efforts in the second round. He said Susan Wright was a “true Tory,” while “Liberal Jake Ellzey has a long history of not running for a vote, and when he does, it’s too often to vote with Democrats for votes. higher taxes â.
Wright’s campaign did not address the Club for Growth attack ads, but expressed confidence that it is on a winning trajectory.
“With the support of President Donald Trump, Senator Ted Cruz, many locally elected officials, dozens of precinct presidents and hundreds of grassroots conservatives, Susan Wright united the Republican Party behind her,” said the strategist of Wright Matt Langston in a statement, adding that Wright “has continued to campaign in recent weeks.”
Early voting for the second round began on Monday and ends on Friday.
On questions, there doesn’t seem to be much daylight between Ellzey and Wright. They both cite finishing the border wall, preserving the integrity of the elections, and defending law enforcement among their priorities.
Ellzey built on his background as a Navy fighter pilot and his short tenure so far at Texas House, in which Republicans passed conservative priority bills like the unlicensed carrying of guns of fist. Wright campaigned to continue her late husband’s legacy as a strong Conservative lawmaker, while showcasing her longtime experience in Texas GOP politics, working for members of the Legislative Assembly and serving to the State Republican Executive Committee.
The duel mentions provide a sharper contrast.
Trump’s approval came on the penultimate day of early voting for the special election, and it appeared to give Wright a major boost in election day voting after practically tying Ellzey to the early ones. polls. Trump reiterated his approval in a July 10 statement, saying Wright “works very hard, has already defeated the Democrat and has a substantial lead to close him on July 27, 2021.”
Trump’s favor rating among Texas Republicans is 86%, says poll last month from the Texas Tribune and the University of Texas at Austin. In the last election cycle, all but one of the Texas Republicans he backed in congressional races were victorious.
A few days after the second round, Wright also got the approval of Cruz, who had expressed his opposition to Ellzey in the first round but did not support any alternative. Most recently, Wright was endorsed Tuesday by Jim Ross, the new mayor of Arlington, the largest population center within the Congressional District.
Ellzey’s biggest second-round success was easily Crenshaw, the rising star of Congress and another Navy veteran. Crenshaw broke his silence in a video end of June, claiming that he had not planned to get involved in the second round but that he “hates[s] dishonest campaigns âlike the one he said Wright’s side was leading.
When asked how much he weighed on Wright’s endorsement of Trump, Crenshaw said in an interview that it “really makes you think.” But Crenshaw downplayed the importance of approvals overall and said “these are really about the people in the race,” praising Ellzey’s experience in the military and now in the legislature.
Either way, Crenshaw said, âI don’t think this is a passionate endorsement from Trump by any stretch of the imagination. “
Crenshaw is not the only endorser of Ellzey who appears to have been galvanized by the Club for Growth attacks. Joe Barton, the member of Congress who occupied the seat before Ron Wright, approved Ellzey on Monday, citing in part the group’s negative campaign against Ellzey.
Ellzey’s clearest advantage in the second round, however, was financial.
On the latest campaign fundraising reports, spanning April 12 through July 7, Ellzey nearly tripled Wright’s fundraising, from $ 1.23 million to $ 454,000. He spent big to achieve the loot – $ 1.15 million, mostly in digital fundraising – but still entered the home stretch with a decisive cash advantage, $ 485,000 to $ 164,000.
The Club for Growth has easily paved the way for third-party spending, losing more than $ 800,000 on the run since the May 1 special election, according to Federal Election Commission records. Clearly, the group usurped Wright’s own campaign as the primary advertiser in the second round.
Ellzey benefited from smaller outside spending led by the Elect Principled Veterans fund, a super PAC that emerged earlier this year to support him in the May 1 special election. A recent filing with the Federal Election Commission revealed that the group had secured all of its funding from the With Honor Fund, a national super PAC that supports veterans running for office from both parties.
Notably, all third party spending on Ellzey’s behalf remained positive.
However, it was the activities of the Club for Growth that attracted the most attention in the second round. His senders trashed Ellzey as an absent state lawmaker, supporter of tax hikes and Democrats’ puppet – literally describing him as a one-piece puppet.
The tax hike demand concerns Ellzey’s vote in favor of a bill in the regular session that would have extended the state’s car rental tax to peer-to-peer car-sharing platforms, which allow people to rent their own cars to others. the legislation passed the House in April with bursting support from the GOP, but never had a Senate committee hearing.
Ellzey backed the vote, arguing that it is “not a new tax” but “a loophole on an old tax that has been closed.” The bill as presented would have raised $ 61.1 million in revenue for the state over the next two years, according to its tax note.
The Senders tie Ellzey to Democrats, citing the fact that 2020 Democratic candidate for the seat, Stephen Daniel, has said he will vote for Ellzey in the second round. Daniel mentionned two days after the May 1 elections, Democrats “could be the deciding factor in this [runoff] and we need to do everything we can to make sure that Trump-endorsed Susan Wright loses. “
Asked if he welcomed Democrat support in the second round, Ellzey replied that he campaigned as he always has – as a divisive Tory in his party and country – and “that will please whoever he appeals to”.
Ellzey also faced close scrutiny over his decision to run for Congress just months after being sworn in at Texas House. Paul Perry, a commissioner in Ellzey’s home county of Ellis County, said he supported Ellzey when he first ran for congressional headquarters in 2018, facing Ron Wright in a second round, but now he’s backing Susan Wright because she “will put duty on ambition.”
“If he leaves office without even serving a full term in Austin, what would he do in Congress if he had the chance to run for another position?” Paul Perry asked.
Ellzey, who pointed out that he was approved by the rest of the Ellis County commissioners, said he liked to remind people that Ted Cruz was only in his first term in the United States Senate when ran for president in 2016.
If a voter supports someone on their character and principles, Ellzey said, “that should be enough.”
Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin has financially supported The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, non-partisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations, and corporate sponsors. Financial support plays no role in the journalism of the Tribune. Find a full list of them here.