January 28, 2020

QUESTION ASKED AND ANSWERED:

Shot: The test: Can Democrats flip the most watched Republican district in Texas?

—The Houston Chronicle, yesterday.

Chaser: GOP poised to dash Democratic hopes of bellwether win in Fort Bend, TX.

Republican Gary Gates on Tuesday appeared headed to a smashing victory over Democrat Eliz Markowitz in a special runoff election for a vacant state House seat in the Houston suburbs, where Democrats hoped an upset win would kick-start efforts to wrangle control of the Texas House in 2020.

In the early vote, Gates, with 10,707 votes, was leading Markowitz, who had 7,461 votes, 59% to 41%.

If he prevails when all the votes are counted, Gates will serve the unexpired term of state Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, who announced in mid-summer that he was stepping down from representing House District 28 in Fort Bend County. The race for a full term in the House will take place in November.

The contest in Fort Bend, where Beto O’Rourke lost in his 2018 bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz by 3.14 points, was the 16th best prospect on a list unveiled by Texas Democrats on Monday. The list contains 22 seats that Democrats are targeting in hopes of flipping the nine they need to gain control of the House and the speakership ahead of redistricting in the next session.

Markowitz’s defeat was also a setback for O’Rourke, whose surprisingly strong run against Cruz has become the yardstick of success for heightened Democratic ambitions in Texas in 2020, but whose deep personal involvement in recent weeks working on behalf of Markowitz and drawing volunteers from across the state and the nation to Fort Bend County may have proved a mixed blessing at best.

* * * * * * * *

Gates was always the favorite to win the runoff. But his consultant Craig Murphy said that O’Rourke’s presence, as well as campaign appearances on behalf of Markowitz by former presidential candidate Julián Castro and presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg, and endorsements by two other candidates — former Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren — nationalized the campaign in unproductive ways for Democrats.

—The Austin Statesman, this evening.

Still though, don’t get cocky, to coin an Insta-phrase.

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