A special election will occur on May 1st to fill the vacancy in Texas’ 6th Congressional District, previously held by Ron Wright (R). Wright died in February due to complications with COVID-19. In a crowded field of twenty-three candidates vying for the seat, we have only seen tv or digital spending supporting six candidates: two Democrats and four Republicans.
To date, we have recorded a total of $750k in ad spending by both campaigns and PACs during this special election. This includes broadcast, cable, radio, and digital advertising spending. Since 2012, Republican candidates have won the congressional seat by an average of 16 points, yet the margin was far narrower in 2020, as incumbent Ron Wright only won the seat by 9 points. Additionally, former President Donald Trump only defeated President Biden in the district by 3 points last November. Although it seems the district is becoming more competitive, ad spending totals in 2021 suggest Republicans are confident they can carry the district in this special election, as 87 percent spending to date has backed Republican candidates.
Although Democrats have been vastly outspent in the District, Jana Lynne Sanchez has spent nearly $64k on advertisements or about 2/3 of the total democratic spending. Sanchez, who unsuccessfully ran against Wright for the seat in 2018, has also received spending on her behalf by Operation 147 PAC and Nuestro PAC. While we have not seen any spending directly from Shawn Lassiter, another Democratic candidate, 314 Action PAC has spent close to $1,500 her behalf.
On the Republican side, Brian Harrison has spent the most on advertisements of any candidate with a total of $215k. Harrison, a former chief of staff at the Department of Health and Human Services for the Trump Administration, has also been backed by Club for Growth Action. Jake Ellzey has received support from the American Patriots PAC and the Elect Principled Veteran Fund. Susan Wright, the wife of the late Ron Wright, is sixth in total spending among advertisers supporting Republican candidates, yet leads the field by eight points, according to a recent poll.
Susan Wright (R) is currently polling at 22 percent, followed by Jana Lynne Sanchez (D) at 16 percent. Despite leading all candidates in total advertising spending, Brian Harrison (R) is polling at only 10 percent and ranks fourth among all candidates behind Jake Ellezy (R) who has spent less than half of the $215k Harrison has spent on advertising. If one candidate does not receive over 50 percent of the vote on May 1st, a runoff election will occur no sooner than May 24, 2021, consisting of the two candidates with the highest vote shares. Polls suggest those two candidates would likely be Susan Wright and Jana Lynne Sanchez. As no candidate is currently polling anywhere near the necessary 50 percent mark, the likelihood of a runoff election is quite high. In this case, we project advertising spending will drastically increase for the two candidates in the weeks leading up to the runoff election. While this certainly isn’t as high profile as many of the special elections held in 2019 and 2020, the results will still tell us something about the direction of the parties and excitement of voters and donors in the post-Trump era.