Democrats’ dreams of turning Texas blue have suffered a severe setback in a special election runoff for the Texas House District 28 seat in Fort Bend County. With all votes counted, Republican Gary Gates has soundly defeated Democrat Eliz Markowitz by 17,457 to 12,617 votes, or 58.05 percent to 41.95 percent.
Widely hailed as a bellwether for Democrats’ ability to flip the Texas House in November, House District 28 is the kind of suburban district that Democrats would have to win in order to turn the lower chamber blue.
The election comes as a result of the resignation of former State Rep. John Zerwas (R–Richmond), who abruptly left the legislature last year to take a position with the University of Texas System. A special election in November narrowed the field down to Gates and Markowitz, who faced off in Tuesday’s runoff election.
Thinking it would be an opportunity to pick up a seat and give the party momentum ahead of the 2020 General Election, the race garnered attention from national Democrats, including several presidential candidates.
It’s that potential opportunity that brought former Congressman and failed candidate Beto O’Rourke to the district in an attempt to elevate the race’s profile by knocking on doors throughout Richmond and Katy while live-streaming it on his Facebook.
Other Democrat presidential hopefuls, from Joe Biden to Elizabeth Warren, urged voters to turn out for Markowitz ahead of the election.
“I’m from a family of teachers, and I know the real deal,” said Biden. “Not only is Eliz an educator and activist—she’s the kind of fighter who will bring heart and smarts to the state House and to communities across Texas and at home in Fort Bend County.”
In a glowing endorsement, the far-left Warren touted Markowitz as well: “I’m joining Democrats across Texas and the country who are jumping all-in for Eliz, because I know she’s the fighter we need to put real change on the agenda for all Texans.”
Despite the massive amount of effort and money put into the runoff, the term will actually expire before the next legislative session since the special election was only to fill the remainder of Zerwas’ term. Gates will have to run in the Republican primary against Schell Hammell before facing Markowitz yet again in the November 2020 General Election.