On Tuesday, Jake Ellzey defeated Susan Wright in the House GOP primary runoff election in Texas 53.3 percent to 46.7 percent.
Wright is the widow of the late GOP congressman Ron Wright (whose death left the seat vacant) and had the endorsement of former president Donald Trump.
Ellzey is a Navy veteran who had the backing of Texas GOP congressman (and fellow Navy veteran) Dan Crenshaw.
Wright’s loss is more evidence that a Trump endorsement isn’t as powerful as some people think it is. That’s good news for Texas GOP congressman Chip Roy, the staunch conservative who has drawn the ire of Donald Trump for voting to certify the results of the Electoral College.
From my NRO profile of Roy published last month:
“Can’t imagine Republican House Members would go with Chip Roy — he has not done a great job, and will probably be successfully primaried in his own district,” Trump wrote in a blog post before the vote for House GOP Conference chair. “I support Elise, by far, over Chip!”
The comments from Cheney and Trump about Roy show that — as much as many Republicans say they want to move on — the 2020 election and January 6 are still major fault lines inside the Republican Party.
As the Washington Post reported earlier this month, Trump has “made supporting his claims of a stolen election — or at least remaining silent about them — a litmus test of sorts as he decides whom to endorse for state and federal contests in 2022 and 2024.”
But is there any reason to believe Trump’s prediction of a Roy primary loss (which reads more like a threat) will come true? Matt McCall, who lost to Roy 47.3 percent to 52.7 percent in the 2018 GOP primary runoff, certainly hopes so.
“I have asked Trump for his endorsement to run against Chip Roy. If Trump endorses, I will run, and we will kick Chip Roy’s ass,” McCall told National Review in a phone interview. “I’ve approached [Trump’s] team. Steve Bannon, I think, is working on that for us.”
McCall, a businessman who did not challenge Roy again in 2020, says he’s interested in running in 2022 because of Roy’s response to the 2020 election and his comment that Trump had committed an impeachable act. McCall believes that the elections in every state where voting procedures were changed without the approval of the legislature — including his own state of Texas, where Governor Greg Abbott added six days of early voting — were unconstitutional, and that the U.S. House of Representatives should have decided the presidential election.
McCall, who looks to Texas congressman Louie Gohmert as a political role model (“I think he’s a very, very sharp man and very conservative”), can be more than a little rough around the edges. This showed up again when he began speculating on why Cruz endorsed Roy.
“I have no idea why [Cruz] went to so much trouble to put Chip into office,” says McCall. “Maybe he intends to run for president and they’ve got dreams of running Chip for Senate.”
“Maybe it was blackmail, that’s what a lot of people say — you know, there’s pictures with Ted and sheep,” he adds. “I don’t know.” McCall did not offer evidence Cruz had been blackmailed about anything. “I’m not trying to pick a fight with Ted Cruz,” he says.
While McCall is committed to running if Trump backs him, he also says he’s happy to endorse any other Republican Trump might endorse: “If [Trump] picks somebody else, I will back him. I’m with Trump.”
Matt Mackowiak, chairman of the GOP of Travis County, home to Austin, dismisses McCall’s primary threats as bluster. “Would I bet any amount of money Chip’s going to lose a primary in 2022? No, I wouldn’t,” Mackowiak tells National Review. “I think he’s got a 95 percent likelihood of being renominated.”
It might be too early to be quite that confident about Roy’s prospects. Redistricting is bound to make the district (which Roy carried by 6.7 points in the 2020 general election and 2.6 points in the 2018 midterms) more Republican and more Trump-friendly, and it was Roy himself who suggested he may have signed his political death warrant when he voted to certify the election.
But there are many reasons to believe Roy remains the heavy favorite heading into 2022. Roy was an unknown staffer when he defeated McCall by five points in 2018; by 2022 he’ll have served four years in D.C., and it’s still very difficult to unseat incumbents. Trump might not throw his support behind a challenger if Roy seems likely to prevail, and even if he did, a Trump endorsement isn’t all-powerful: See, for example, the 32-point loss by Trump-endorsed House candidate Lynda Bennett in a North Carolina open primary in 2020. And, again, Roy has been highlighting and focusing on issues that appeal to Republican voters.