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Elections 2019

TX HD-28: Markowitz and Gates Head to a Runoff

Democrats are hoping to flip Texas House District 28 in the upcoming runoff. Meanwhile, there may also be runoffs in two other special elections for seats in the lower chamber.

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Texas House District 28 candidates Democrat Elizabeth “Eliz” Markowitz and Republican Gary Gates are the top contenders in the race to replace former state Rep. John Zerwas. Photo courtesy: Social media

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

A Democrat and a Republican are advancing to a runoff in a nationally targeted special election for a previously Republican-held Texas House seat.

With all vote centers reporting Tuesday night, the sole Democratic candidate, Eliz Markowitz, finished first with 39% of the vote, according to unofficial returns. Republican Gary Gates was the runner-up at 28%.

Gates, a wealthy businessman and perennial candidate, was one of three serious GOP candidates out of six total. The two other viable Republicans in the race, Tricia Krenek and Anna Allred got 18% and 9%, respectively.

Allred appeared to concede at about 10:30 p.m., saying she was “disappointed with the results” but “pleased with our campaign.”

While Democrats celebrated Markowitz’s first-place finish, they wasted little time laying the groundwork for the runoff — and drawing a contrast with Gates, who loaned his campaign hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“Our movement is people-powered — not self-funded,” Markowitz said in a statement, followed by one from state party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa labeling Gates a “Trump Republican hellbent on buying this election.”

The race for House District 28 — where former state Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, stepped down at the end of September — was one of three contests Tuesday to fill state House seats. The two others happened in solidly Democratic districts where runoffs were also looking likely, based on the early vote and initial Election Day results.

In House District 100, where former Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, vacated his seat earlier this year after becoming Dallas mayor, Democrat Lorraine Birabil had a wide lead over three Democratic rivals but had not clinched more than half the vote. James Armstrong III, Daniel Davis Clayton and Sandra Crenshaw were in a close race for second place and a spot in an expected runoff.

And in House District 148, where Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, also resigned at the end of September, Democrat Anna Eastman and Republican Luis La Rotta were topping the field. They were followed by Democrat Adrian Garcia and Republican Ryan McConnico in the 15-way race.

In the run-up to Tuesday, though, the battle for Zerwas’ seat had attracted the most attention. Democrats are aiming to flip the seat as they head into 2020 with the hopes of capturing the Texas House, where they are effectively nine seats away from the majority.

Markowitz, a Katy educator who unsuccessfully ran last year for State Board of Education, drew hundreds of thousands of dollars in support from state and national Democrats. A number of high-profile surrogates visited the district to campaign for her, including Beto O’Rourke when he was running for president.

While there were a half-dozen Republicans running, only three emerged as viable contenders: Gates; Krenek, a former member of the Fulshear City Council; and Allred, an anesthesiologist from Katy. Gates, who made his fortune in real estate, almost exclusively self-funded his campaign, loaning himself over $700,000.

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Patrick Svitek is the primary political correspondent for The Texas Tribune, and editor of The Blast, the Tribune's subscription-only daily newsletter for political insiders. Patrick logged countless miles on the 2016 campaign trail, covering the many Texas angles of the momentous presidential race. He previously worked for the Houston Chronicle's Austin bureau. He graduated in 2014 from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. He originally is from Fort Wayne, Indiana.

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