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What to expect in HD28?

Time to play the expectations game.

Eliz Markowitz

It is hard not to argue Democrats have gone all in on the special election runoff for House District 28.

Ahead of the Tuesday election, at least three presidential candidates have come to the aid of Democratic candidate Eliz Markowitz. State and national groups have poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into her race against self-funding Republican Gary Gates. And Beto O’Rourke has practically made Fort Bend County his second home, spending days at a time there to help Markowitz to flip the seat — and give Democrats a shot of momentum as they head toward November intent on capturing the lower-chamber majority.

But all the activity belies the reality that District 28 is far from the most competitive district that Democrats are targeting this year, a point they are increasingly making as expectations balloon around Markowitz’s campaign. Republicans, meanwhile, are voicing confidence after the early-vote period, raising the prospect of a decisive win Tuesday that delivers an early blow to Democrats’ hopes of flipping the House.

“We want to send a message after this election,” Gates said at a block walk launch here Saturday morning. “We don’t want to win by 2 or 3, 4 points.”

Markowitz and Gates are vying to finish the term of former Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, who won reelection in 2018 by 8 percentage points while O’Rourke lost the suburban Houston district by 3. Those numbers do indeed put HD-28 far down the list of 22 seats that Democrats have designated as pickup opportunities in November — 16th, to be exact.

But there is no denying that the deluge of high-profile Democratic attention has laid the foundation for a highly anticipated result Tuesday, complicating efforts to keep the race in perspective. Texas Democratic Party spokesman Abhi Rahman said Friday that Democrats “have already won by the fact Republicans have had to invest as much as they have in this district.”

“I’m hard-pressed to see how we lose on Tuesday regardless of the outcome,” Markowitz said in an interview Sunday evening. “Whether or not we walk away having won [the runoff] … we will have walked away establishing a movement for change and that movement will continue across the state of Texas through November.”

[…]

The four-day early voting period ended Friday, and turnout was 16,332, which blew past that of the November special election, which drew 14,270 voters. That is especially notable because there were 12 days of early voting for the November election, and many more polling places were open. Also, Gates was vying against five other Republicans, while Markowitz was the sole Democratic candidate.

But who that increased turnout benefits is a separate question. In the Gates campaign analysis, the early vote was 53% Republican, 30% Democratic and 17% independent — auguring a massive disadvantage for Markowitz heading into Election Day. Democrats have not offered similarly detailed numbers, but Markowitz said their “analysis is showing that we’re at a dead heat and it’s really going to come down to Election Day turnout.”

Not to put too fine a point on it, but winning is better than losing, and only one side gets to win. Covering the spread is a reasonable consolation prize and a thing one can hopefully point to as a portent for November, as long as one remembers that special elections can be goofy and are often not a great predictor of what will follow. But in the end, losing by a smaller-than-expected margin is still losing, as Sen. Ted Cruz can tell you.

We will overcome the narrative of this race, whichever way it goes, and move on to the next race, because that’s what we all do. I don’t care what pundits and Republicans will say if Markowitz winds up losing by a not-respectable margin. I do care that some of the people who worked so hard to elect her may be discouraged by such a result, but at least we know there are plenty of races to focus on, including this one in November. We all remember that the winner of this race has earned the right to serve until the end of this year and still has to win in November to be a part of the actual legislative process, right?

Whatever we learn twelve hours or so from now, Markowitz ran a strong race and had a lot of support, from within the state and from outside it. Win or lose, whatever the final score, we have to learn from that experience and build on it for November. That’s what really matters.

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2 Comments

  1. blank says:

    What is the spread? I’d probably put it at Gates by 5 or 6, but I don’t live anywhere near Katy.

  2. blank says:

    Well that prediction was pretty bad. I don’t think all is lost, but I am for now moving CD-22 from lean R to likely R.