Texas Congressional Republican's Health Woes
Could Change Dynamics of Race to Dems Favor
By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor
September 14, 2020
The prospects for a special Texas congressional election arose on Monday amid revelations on a rookie Republican incumbent's health in a district that Democrats could have a 50-50 chance of winning in November now.
U.S. Rep. Ron Wright of Arlington is back in the hospital after bouts with cancer off and on during the past two years. Wright had been hospitalized at Walter Reed in Besthesda, Maryland before returning to Dallas this past weekend. The prognosis apparently is grim.
Wright, who's 67, had been a slight favorite in a fall duel with Democratic challenger Stephen Daniel in his first re-election race since capturing the Congressional District 6 seat in an open contest in 2018.
Daniel would have better odds on paper this fall if Wright happened to be incapacitated or no longer alive on November 3 when the election is held. But Wright could lose his life and still win the election as the GOP nominee on the fall ballot with the deadline for replacement candidates late last month.
Governor Greg Abbott would have to call a special session to pick a replacement in CD 6 in the event of a posthumous victory by the ailing incumbent. But Daniel could get an unexpected boost amid questions about Wright's ability to serve due to illness or death.
Daniel is a Waxahachie attorney who's a business partner of Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. Daniel expressed condolences to Wright and his family as the news spread about the freshman lawmaker's fragile state.
"My prayers and best wishes to Rep. Ron Wright and his family on the news of his recent hospitalization," Daniel said on Facebook on Monday night. "He is in my thoughts and I wish him a speedy recovery."
Texas has experience in the politics of life after death - having been forced to replace Pearland Republican Glenda Dawson in the Texas House after she died in 2006 less than two months before the election that she ended up winning with more than 60 percent of the vote in a duel with a Democrat who'd had minimal funding.
Dawson's death didn't stop her campaign from firing off a high-dollar mail piece on the eve of the election with a photo of the late incumbent posing with then-U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison as the two urged people to get out and vote for them. The mailer did not disclose that Dawson actually was dead.
But the House district that Dawson had represented for almost two terms is no longer safely Republican like it had been 14 years ago. And the congressional district where Wright will be on the ballot for re-election is not the solid red district that it had been before President Donald Trump's emergence on the political landscape.
Trump had defeated Hillary Clinton in CD 6 by a dozen points with almost 54 percent of the vote in 2016. Mitt Romney and Abbott had both topped 58 percent in CD 6 in 2012 and 2014 respectively as the top races on the Texas tickets those years.
But the Democrats were suddenly in striking distance in CD 6 when U.S Senator Ted Cruz defeated Beto O'Rourke there by only 3 points in 2018. Wright, who'd been well known locally as the Tarrant County tax assessor-collector, beat Democratic foe Jana Lynne Sanchez by less than 8. Sanchez has endorsed Daniel this time around.