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Let’s temper our expectations just a bit in HD28

It’s an important race, and winning it would be a big boost, but let’s no go overboard.

Eliz Markowitz

When Beto O’Rourke traveled to his home state of Texas for the recent Democratic presidential debate, he made a surprising stop: at a rally with a state legislative candidate who is barely known outside the exurbs of Houston.

But if she wins Texas’ 28th Statehouse District in November, Eliz Markowitz could help change the course of U.S. politics for the next decade.

That’s because, over the next 13 months, Democrats have a genuine shot at breaking Republicans’ iron grip on Texas — if they can flip just nine seats in the 150-member Texas House. And Markowitz, a longtime educator, is locked in a tight special election for one of the handful of seats Democrats have to flip to make that happen.

Control of the chamber would give Democrats a say in the all-important 2021 redistricting process — the decennial redrawing of legislative districts according to new census data — and give national Democrats a huge advantage in holding their majority in Congress.

Texas, thanks to severe Republican gerrymandering, currently provides the GOP with its single largest source of congressional power: Two-thirds of Texas’ U.S. representatives are Republican, even though in 2018 they won only 50.4% of votes cast for Congress.

Ahead of the Nov. 5 contest, Markowitz is drawing the focus of nearly every Democratic group in the country whose mission it is to win down-ballot races.

“We’ve had support from all over the country,” she said.

They’re sending strategic advice, voter data, targeting methods, email lists several hundred thousand-strong with small donors, and volunteers. Besides the O’Rourke campaign, Annie’s List, a Texas version of EMILY’s List that recruits and funds female Democratic candidates, is spending five figures to help her win, and the Texas Democratic Party is lavishing “a lot of resources,” said Abhi Rahman, the group’s spokesman. (Ahead of an October deadline to disclose its spending, groups are being cagey about precise figures.)

The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee and the Future Now Fund are also funneling unknown sums, and groups like Run For Something, which supports down-ballot progressives, are providing strategic advice.

“If Markowitz is able to somehow win or come very close, that would lend a lot of credence to the idea that Republicans are faced with the principal challenge in 2020 of holding onto [their] majority in the Texas House,” said Mark Jones, a political professor at Rice University. “That would be a signal of a real vulnerability to losing the chamber in 2020.”

I basically agree with Mark Jones’ assessment here, but let’s do keep in mind that win or lose, the turnout environment in HD28 this November – and December, if it goes to a runoff – will be very, very different than the turnout environment next November. Weird things can happen in low turnout races, especially when the stakes are relatively low. This race is quite reasonably been seen as a bellwether, but whoever wins in HD28 (and in HD100, and in HD148) will not get to cast any votes until the next regular session begins in 2021. That makes this different from, say, a Congressional special election, where the new member gets thrown right into a chamber where actual bills are being debated.

And that highlights the second point: Whoever wins this race may not get to be the person who is sworn in for the 87th Lege. That person will still have to win their primary, and that next November election. There are no guarantees here: Dems flipped HD97 in a November 2007 special election, and Republicans took over HD118 in January of 2018, but both seats flipped back in the next regular election. I feel confident saying Eliz Markowitz will be the Democratic nominee in HD28 in 2020, but that’s as far as we can go right now.

Point being: It would be great to win this race, and Markowitz (interview here) is a terrific candidate who is well worth supporting. But win or lose – and especially if she loses by an amount that is deemed “significant” or “disappointing” by pundits – she’ll be on the ballot again next November, and that’s when it will really count. We need to support her for the full cycle, that’s all I’m saying. Daily Kos has more.

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3 Comments

  1. Mainstream says:

    Conversely, if Luis LaRotta, endorsed by the Harris County Republican Party makes a strong showing in HD 148, the story line might be that new state reps Rosenthal and Calanni could be endangered in 2020 and the GOP could have opportunities to increase their margins in the state house.

  2. blank says:

    Dems flipped HD97 in a November 2007 special election, and Republicans took over HD118 in January of 2018, but both seats flipped back in the next regular election.

    As mentioned earlier, I think most people are just looking at this race a bellwether, and even though HD 97 flipped back in 2008, it was certainly one. Joel Burns was elected to the Fort Worth City Council in the same special election. In 2008, Wendy Davis won SD 10, which has significant overlap with HD 97, Chris Turner won neighboring district HD 96, and Democrats picked up seats (though I can’t recall how many) in the State House. While no one should give Dan Barrett full credit for Burns, Davis, Turner, or the State House pick ups in 2008, the HD 97 win was a sign of good things to come.

    I’m less familiar with HD 28 than many on this web page, and if you force me to guess this special election will go to a runoff, and Eliz comes up short in the special election, its runoff, and again in 2020. Nonetheless, by essentially running 3 times for HD 28, she will help soften the area, potentially for a pick up of CD 22 in 2020.

    On a different but loosely related topic, Mike Collier is considering taking on Crenshaw in CD 2.

    Mainstream–I stated in an earlier post that I could see the Republicans actually picking up this seat with a weird top-two runoff split. If that happens the story will be that Texas elections need RCV, since its a much better small “d” democratic election system than the current top-two runoff system.

  3. Mainstream says:

    blank—I like the concept of RCV when there are just 3 or 4 candidates and a high profile office, but not sure it would work well in a 13 person contest, or in a setting where voters need the run-off campaign to focus issues and bring attention to the contest.

    With so many candidates in HD 148 and Council District C, any number of weird combinations are possible for the run-off.