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Democrat Liz Markowitz Aims to Flip the TX Statehouse

Eliz Markowitz—She’s Aiming to Help Flip the Lone Star State House “Blue” September 22, 2019

“Texodus.” That’s the term for the GOP Congressmen in Texas, presently at five, who have decided to hang up their political boots and spurs rather than run again in Campaign 2020. The “Fleeing Five”-- Pete Olson, Will Hurd, Mike Conaway, Kenny Marchant, and Bill Flores (see huffingtonpost.com, Boboltz, 9/04/19). As I have previously noted, Democrats are making a serious play to put a lot of those Lone Star congressional seats in the “Blue” column. Besides the presidential and congressional races in Campaign 2020, Democrats in TX believe they have a serious chance to finally flip the TX State House “Blue.” In the 2018 midterm, 12 Lone Star House seats turned “Blue,” depriving the GOP of a supermajority. The political “magic number” for TX Democrats to take control of the State House is now just 9. Should “Team Blue” keep its previous State House gains and take those 9 seats, after 2020 it will have the ability to force GOP Gov. Greg Abbott to give them a fair shake at redistricting, or redo TX’s super-tilted GOP state and congressional maps. “Team Red” knows this fact too. GOP TX State Senator Kelly Hancock told a recent meeting of anti-government Tea Partiers, “There is nothing more important—not only to Texas, but literally the nation—than to make sure that we maintain the Texas House… going into redistricting because if you look at the nation—we lose Texas, we lose the nation. And there’s no other place to go (Kuffner, C., offthekuff.com, 6/24/19).”

For Democrats, in this tough fight, the “name of the game” is one-part candidate recruitment as well as one-part raising money. In the Fort Bend County area, part of the Houston metropolitan region, Liz Markowitz will be running for House District (HD) 28 and the Democrats have united behind her. Markowitz, as well as six GOPers will be running in a special election on 11/05/2019. They will be vying for the open TX HD seat left vacant by long time incumbent GOPer John Zerwas. First elected in 2006, Zerwas faced the only close call of his career in 2018, winning against a Democrat by only 8 points, while U.S. GOP Sen. Ted Cruz narrowly won this seat against Beto O’Rourke by just 3 points in this area. Zerwas then decided on his own “Texodus.” Rather than face stiff competition in 2018, he stated he would resign at the end of 9/2019 and take a position at the University of Texas for health affairs (ourcampaigns.com, coveringkaty.com, Kos, Booker, M., 9/09/19, offthekuff.com, 6/24/19). If none of the top candidates in this open HD 28 race win a majority on 11/05/2019, the top two finishers will advance to a runoff on a date to be determined later (Kos, Booker). Prior to Campaign 2020, Democrats want to whittle the number of seats they need to take back the TX House to 8 and go into 2020 with a strong headwind in those contests. Let’s hone in on this HD 28th race.

Liz (Elizabeth) Markowitz, as noted, is the sole Democrat running for the open seat in TX House District (HD) 28. TX’s HD 28th is located in the Houston metro area and contains part of fast-growing Fort Bend County. It takes in parts of the cities of Katy, Rosenberg, and Mission Bend. The entire cities of Fulshear, Orchard, and Weston Lakes are in the Lone Star HD 28th . The HD 28th has a population of 160, 373. It is 46.6% white and 22% Hispanic (ballotpedia.org, Cities and Census Designated Places by District-House District 28). The 28th HD is part of the U.S. 9th Congressional District, represented by Democratic Cong. Al Green and the 22nd Congressional District, currently represented by GOPer Pete Olson, who is not running in 2020 (See District Election Report, House District 28). The 28th HD has followed the pattern of educated suburban areas shifting toward Democrats in the Trump era. In 2012, Mitt Romney handily won the 28th by 29 points over Obama and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz won it then by a similar 30- point margin. However, in 2016, Trump won this area by just 10 points while in 2018, Ted Cruz beat Beto O’Rourke here by just a 3- point spread (docsgoogle.com, Kos, Booker, 9/09/19).

TX native and Katy, TX teacher Liz Markowitz was raised in Sugar Land , TX, the daughter of a teacher and oil worker. Markowitz earned a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Trinity University and two Master’s Degrees in Business and Healthcare from the University of TX in San Antonio. She received her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston. In 2018, she unsuccessfully ran for the TX State Board of Education, District 7 which overlaps with the 28th HD. Markowitz currently works as an instructor, corporate trainer, and author with the Princeton Review where she trains teachers across the nation and spends time with students. She is running for office to fight for all Texans getting affordable healthcare regardless of income or ethnicity. She wants to protect and promote rural healthcare and guarantee access to prescription drugs. As an educator, Markowitz, wants to end TX’s reliance on STAAR testing. STARR are standardized tests repeatedly given in TX public schools to assess students’ achievements and their results are used to get funds from the state. She has aptly called them a waste of millions of dollars and countless hours of instructional time. Markowitz stands for investing in pre-K special education and wants to decrease reliance on property taxes that help wealthy neighborhood schools over poor ones. She is for increasing teacher salaries and reducing class sizes. She advocates better disaster management and relief plans for industries and schools (eliz4tx.com, Meet Dr. Eliz, texastribune.com, Svitek, P., 9/04/19). She opposes gerrymandering. She wants to protect the environment as well as voting rights (coveringkaty.com, D. Spellman, 8/30/19).

The most credible GOP candidates running against Markowitz are Tricia Krenek, Anna Allred, and Gary Gates. Krenek, received two accounting degrees and her law degree from the University of Houston Law Center. She studied under the late U.S. Supreme Ct. Justice Antonin Scalia. Krenek formerly served two terms on the Fulshear City Council, a fast- growing town of 12,000 in the 28th HD. She has been active in the Fort Bend GOP Party, serving as precinct chair. She won the GOP primary for County Court at Law Court #3 in 2018 and carried the vote in HD 28 in that election. If elected to the 28th HD, Krenek stated she would emphasize issues affecting fast growing Fort Bend County. She stands for keeping taxes and regulations low, promoting free markets, and defending “pro-family values (fbindependent.com, 8/08/19).”

GOPer Anna Allred, an anesthesiologist, states on her website that she is “a conservative who believes that government is more likely the problem than the solution (words straight from Ronald Reagan).” Allred states that “it’s the private sector innovation that makes Texas the very best place to live. I will work tirelessly, with commitment, expertise and passion on behalf of the voters of this district as well as citizens in the state of Texas.” Although resigning HD 28th GOPer Zerwas has not yet publicly announced his preference, Allred could have an “inside/incumbent like” track here, because she and Zerwas are partners in the same anesthesiology practice (See texastribune.com, Svitek, P., 9/04/19, Spellman, D., coveringkaty.com/fort bend, 8/30/19, Kos, Booker, M., 9/09/19).

And then there is GOPer Gary Gates. He is probably the best known of the candidates, but not for good reasons. Wealthy Rosenberg, TX businessman Gates has previously run unsuccessfully for office four times, most recently, in 2014 and 2016. In 2014, Gates finished second in a special election for the TX 18th District in the State Senate. In 2016, Gates made a run for statewide office as a candidate for the TX Railroad Commission and lost his primary runoff by just two points, 51%-49% (ourcampaigns.com, Malewitz, J., 4/28/16, texastribune.org). During this 2016 campaign, elements of Gates’ checkered past came up. In 2000, the TX Child Protective Services removed 13 children from his home, saying they were in “immediate danger.” A judge returned the children to Gates and the case was dropped, but not before serious accusations were leveled against Gates, including allegations that he made his children miss meals as a form of punishment (texastribune.org, Malewitz, 4/28/16). Gates is now running for the 28th HD on a platform of “protecting taxpayers, securing the border, protecting innocent life, and defending the Second Amendment,” the usual hard-right platform (coveringkaty.com, Spellman, 8/30/19). You get the idea.

Can Liz Markowitz win the TX 28th HD and ultimately help the Democrats retake the State House by flipping 9 GOP seats? Yes, it’s great that Democrats have coalesced around one candidate. However, she will need all the help she can get to win this special election outright and if not, win the runoff against one of these experienced GOP candidates. Even controversial Gates will be supported by many “Red”-leaning Texans who always vote. Many GOPers could care less about scandal-tainted candidates if an “R” is next to a hard-right candidate’s name. TX and national GOPers, as previously mentioned, are well aware of the stakes in keeping the TX State House “Red” and they are already planning to go after the 28th HD and take back the seats Lone Star Dems took in 2018. GOP Gov. Abbott has the well-funded organization Associated Republicans of Texas (ART) focused on candidate recruitment and financing (offthekuff.com, Kuffner, 6/24/19). Bet on Koch Industries and other GOP groups to heavily finance TX State House candidates. Patrick Rodenbush, a spokesman for the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, the group chaired by former Obama Atty. General Eric Holder, stated, “The path is tough but possible to flip the chamber. We feel that there are enough potential targets out there that nine is doable, but it is gonna take a lot of work and resources.” Several Democratic groups are zeroing in on Markowitz’s and other TX State House races. These include the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) and the Forward Majority super PAC (political action committee) that put $2.2 million into TX House races in 2018 (offthekuff.com, Kuffner, 6/24/19). And, of course, Markowitz will need superb Democratic voter turnout to win any primary or runoff as will all the other TX State House Democratic candidates running in 11/2020. As we saw in Dem. Dan McCready’s heartbreaking 2% loss in the 9/10/2019 NC congressional special election, Trump can rouse GOPers by just showing up and screaming to his MAGA base. Yes, Markowitz can win in TX and Democrats can flip the State House, but it will be far from easy and will require near perfect campaigns. Nothing can be taken for granted.