AUSTIN – U.S. Rep. Ron Wright, R-Texas, died Sunday after being hospitalized weeks earlier with COVID-19, his campaign announced in a statement Monday.
Wright was first elected to his post in 2018 and won reelection last year. The 67-year-old had been battling lung cancer for several years and was hospitalized in mid-September due to complications surrounding his treatment.
He started his political career in North Texas, serving at-large on the Arlington City Council from 2000 to 2008. He later served as the tax assessor-collector in Tarrant County.
“As friends, family, and many of his constituents will know, Ron maintained his quick wit and optimism until the very end,” his campaign said in a statement. “Despite years of painful, sometimes debilitating treatment for cancer, Ron never lacked the desire to get up and go to work, to motivate those around him, or to offer fatherly advice.”
Wright is the first sitting member of Congress to die after contracting the coronavirus.
Congressman-elect Luke Letlow, a Republican from Louisiana, died in December from complications of COVID-19, days before being sworn in.
Wright announced that he tested positive for the coronavirus on Jan. 21. Earlier that week, Wright said he and members of his staff had come into contact with someone who tested positive for the virus after the House vote to impeach then-President Donald Trump.
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Chip Roy, John Cornyn remember Wright as ‘a tireless fighter for North Texas’
In a statement Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott said Wright “leaves behind a tremendous legacy” for future generations.
“Ron was a principled leader who fought to preserve Texas values and was an exemplary representative of his district,” Abbott said. “His personal strength and commitment to standing up for the unborn were unwavering.”
His colleagues in Congress remembered Wright on Monday as a warm, bowtie-wearing politician with a powerful love of country.
“Ron will be remembered as a tireless fighter for North Texas who brought his conservative principles and love of country to the United States Congress every single day,” said U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas, in a statement. “We’ll all miss his signature bowtie and warm personality in the halls of the Capitol, a presence that cannot soon be replaced.”
U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, a Republican from Hays County, called Wright “one of my closest friends in Congress” who cared deeply for others.
Roy said the last text message he received from Wright came as a member of Roy’s family was navigating their own COVID-19 case, and read: “Still in hospital, but definitely improving. Praying for your family!!!”
“We would all have been served well by having him for a longer time walking among us, sharing his wisdom, humor, knowledge of history, experience on Capitol Hill, and his commitment to public service,” Roy said in a statement. “Ron believed in the greatness of America and loved our shared home state of Texas deeply.”
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, commended Wright for his Texas values.
“A sixth-generation resident of Tarrant County, he was a Texan first and foremost, and we saw that every day as he put his community first,” he said in a statement. “My heart goes out to his wife, Susan, and his children and grandchildren, whom I hope find solace in his legacy of service.”
Elected to Congress
Wright faced a crowded Republican primary in 2018 to fill the seat in the Sixth Congressional District, which came open after Republican Joe Barton, facing a political scandal, said he would not seek reelection. Wright previously served as Barton’s chief of staff and district director.
U.S. House District 6 includes parts of Fort Worth and stretches south of Dallas.
Following his career in local politics, Wright announced that he would run for Congress. His platform included securing the border, fixing “our broken immigration system” and tax reform.
“This job will not be a career move for me, but a chance to take the small government, conservative values I hold up to D.C. and stick to them on behalf of the voters,” he told the newspaper. “Texans are tired of seeing Congress shed their campaign promises. I won’t give in to the ‘swamp.’”
In a 2018 interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Wright said he should be elected for the spot because he has the “willingness to say no to the Washington establishment.”
Wright defeated Jake Ellzey in the Republican runoff and then went on to defeat Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez by nearly 8 points in the general election.
He easily defeated Democrat Stephen Daniel to win re-election last year.
Wright is survived by his wife, Susan; his sons, Derek and Justin, his daughter Rachel, his brother Gary and nine grandchildren.