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AUSTIN, Texas – Susan Wright, the Republican widow of a congressman who died of Covid-19, appeared on Saturday night leading a close race to replace her husband in Washington.

Still, Ms Wright, whose husband Ron Wright died in February, couldn’t avoid a runoff for the state’s Sixth Congressional District, which primarily includes rural areas in three counties in North Texas and part of the country’s fourth largest metropolitan area around. Dallas, Fort Worth and Arlington.

Ms Wright, who received a last-minute endorsement from former President Donald J. Trump, garnered around 19% of the vote, well below the 50% required to avoid a run-off. It looked like she was heading for another contest with fellow Republican Jake Ellzey. Jana Lynne Sanchez, a Democrat, followed closely in third place.

The results disappointed Democrats, who hoped to tap into a reservoir of changing demographics and Hispanic and African American growth in a district where Mr. Trump gained just three percentage points in November.

Ms Sanchez, who ran a close race against Mr Wright in 2018, held a campaign rally at her home in Fort Worth and vowed to keep fighting for progressive values. The Sixth District was once a Democratic stronghold, until Phil Gramm changed party membership in 1983, turning the district into a reliable stronghold of Republican strength for decades.

In February, Mr Wright, who had lung cancer, died after contracting the coronavirus. His wife was one of the first to replace him, but his chances of outright victory dwindled after the field grew to 23 candidates, including 11 Republicans, 10 Democrats, a libertarian and an independent.

The battle took an odd turn in the past few days when supporters of Ms Wright said they received anonymous robocalls accusing her of killing her husband. She immediately requested an investigation from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and local authorities.

Saturday’s results indicated that Mr. Trump continued to have a grip on the Republican Party in Texas months after losing an election he falsely claimed was stolen from him. Mr. Wright had been a vocal ally of Mr. Trump and a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.

This is the second time the widow of a congressman who died from Covid has sought to keep her husband’s seat. Last month, Julia Letlow, a Republican from Louisiana, avoided a runoff by securing the seat from her late husband, Luke Letlow, who died before he had a chance to represent the district, which includes much of the party. historically red state powerhouse. .

In municipal races elsewhere in Texas, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg easily won a second term. And voters in Austin overwhelmingly favored an end to the ban on public camping, a decisive victory for those seeking to prevent homeless people from erecting tents in parts of the city. Homelessness is a contested issue in the state capital, with critics saying the referendum offered no alternatives for people with no place to sleep.

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