South Texas businessman Jim Wright sat in the office Tuesday evening with his grassroots campaign team in Corpus Christi as Primary election results rolled in. There wasn’t any music, fanfare or exuberance of any type in the room as the minutes turned into hours. It was all business and you knew it the very second that you walked in the room. In the end, the political newcomer with limited cash on hand would take out the well funded, political career driven machine of incumbent Ryan Sitton.
Most people didn’t give Jim Wright a chance of winning and even his opponent discarded him as a flash in the pan. But Wright, who actually did more campaigning in rural and West Texas than most people realized, knew that he had grassroots support from everyday Texans.
“People tell me that they want transparency from the Railroad Commission,” Wright said. “They also tell me that they want better communication on the issues and somebody that will listen to them. Matt, I really did go out there and listen to these folks.”
Perhaps, it was that listening that earned Wright some voter trust and loyalty on Tuesday as Texas Republicans went to the polls. Or it could have even been the fact that Wright is a solid conservative who supports President Trump and always has.
While Sitton carried around an attitude that was often seen as argumentative, contentious and arrogant, it was Wright who was softer spoken, mild mannered and approachable. And in an era where “draining the swamp” has become a rally cry for Republicans, Tuesday’s upset may have signaled that a firm, genuine handshake still means more than braggadocious bliss to many Texas voters.
“Do you think we won?” asked Jim Wright to nobody in particular in the room at about 10:00 pm after numbers showed him leading by over 100,000 votes.
“I dunno, we’ll see,” chimed in Wright’s campaign consultant and strategist Steve Ray, who is known to be able to pull off the “unwinnable” races.
Shortly after that, Wright’s iPhone 7 rang with a congratulatory call from Commission Chair Christi Craddick. Moments later Commissioner Wayne Christian seconded the call to Wright. By then it was clear that this small, grassroots campaign based on transparency, communication, fairness and listening had just unseated a popular, polished and well funded machine.
There were no swigs of whiskey, puffs of cigar smoke, cheers or chants as news of the win sank in around the room.
“Alright guys, I am going to go home to be with my wife and get ready for work in the mornin’,” Wright said just before midnight as he climbed into his truck to drive 45 minutes through the fog back to his home near Orange Grove. “Yeah, I want to go home and be with my wife. Thank you guys for everything you have done for me and for Texas,” he said in a tone full of all humility.
“I’m ready to go to work listening to and working for the people of Texas,” said Wright. “That’s what they are going to get from me.”