Never Trump Republican candidate Michael Wood, who was endorsed by Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and received a campaign donation from Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), suffered an enormous defeat in Texas’s Sixth Congressional District special election over the weekend, placing ninth in the race and barely reaching three percent of the vote.
Wood came in behind four other Republicans and four Democrats out of 23 candidates, receiving 3.2 percent, or 2,503 votes out of 78,000 cast.
Wood’s openly Never Trump-themed campaign attracted contributions from Republican congressmembers who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump, including Kinzinger, who prominently campaigned on behalf of Wood and even traveled to Texas to meet with him in the leadup to the race.
Cheney, the House GOP Caucus chair who has continuously bucked her party by speaking out against Trump after also voting to impeach him, did not endorse Wood, but reports confirm she contributed financially to both his campaign and Susan Wright’s campaign.
Wood posted a clip of himself in April describing Cheney as a “modern day Iron lady” and “the bravest woman in the Western Hemisphere”:
Q: Who are the members of Congress you most admire?
Michael: “Liz Cheney is a modern day Iron Lady, she is an American Margaret Thatcher and we need to recognize that…she is the bravest woman in the Western Hemisphere.”#tx06 @RepLizCheney pic.twitter.com/Ul3TvFB1ol
— Michael Wood for Congress (@michaelwoodtx) April 3, 2021
Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH), another Trump impeachment supporter, also donated to Wood.
Wright, for her part, was supported by the conservative group Club for Growth and received an eleventh-hour endorsement from the former president the week of the race. The Trump-backed candidate ended up being the clear winner of the election with 19 percent of the vote, and she and runner-up state Rep. Jake Ellzey (R-Waxahachie) — who received 14 percent of the vote — will go on to compete in a runoff in the coming months since no candidate reached 50 percent.
Some suggested the crowded election — held to replace the vacant seat of Rep. Ron Wright (R-TX), Susan Wright’s late husband who died in February — would be a litmus test for Republicans’ sentiment toward Trump and his influence over the GOP since leaving office. The former president won the Sixth District by double digits in 2016 but only by three points in 2020, while Ron Wright won reelection in 2020 more handily by about nine points.
The Associated Press speculated the race would offer “a window into the forces tearing at the fabric of today’s GOP,” CNN in a clip about the election called it “a battle for the soul of the Republican Party,” and Politico published a feature piece on race-day morning titled “Trump gets tested in suburban Texas.”
Kinzinger, an outspoken opponent of Trump who has described him as “weak,” “narcissistic,” and “desperate” and who calls the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol an “insurrection,” was a steadfast endorser for Wood. The Illinois Never Trumper launched a political action committee this year called Country First — the purpose of which, it claims, is to support candidates running on platforms that choose “country over party” — and used it to back Wood’s campaign:
— COUNTRY FIRST (@COUNTRY_F1RST) March 23, 2021
“The Trump thing, it’s got nowhere to go but down. It’s not growing,” Kinzinger said during a lunch with Wood on his visit to Texas last week. Kinzinger donated $7,000 to Wood’s campaign and aided Wood in raising an additional $31,000, Politico reported.
Despite the hype surrounding Wood’s Never Trump message, the low turnout of 2,503 votes — half of which were cast prior to election day — suggests it did not resonate with local Texans, at least in his district, which includes suburbs just south of Dallas and Fort Worth.
Wood said in a statement about his defeat, “I am proud of the campaign we ran, and regret nothing. This was always going to be a long shot, but I hope that others around the country will do the same, and fight for our party and our country.”
Write to Ashley Oliver at [email protected].