January 18, 2020

Democrats from Coast to Coast Rally Behind Runoff Contender
in Special Texas House Race that Could Be National Harbinger

By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor

Texas House District 28
Special Election Cash

Donations & Loans 2019
Cash on Hand December 31

Eliz Markowitz (D)
House District 28
Jan 15 Report: $244,460
Total Donations: $618,429
Campaign Loans: $0
Cash on Hand: $118,308
Gary Gates (R)
House District 28
Jan 15 Report: $24,906
Total Donations: $25,671
Campaign Loans: $1,176,100
Cash on Hand: $59,934
Source: Texas Ethics Commission

A suburban swath of the Houston area has become ground zero for the 2020 elections in Texas and beyond in a special state House runoff election that features a Democrat who's had a record-shattering number of donors from other states.

Katy Democrat Eliz Markowtiz rounded up donations in the final two months of 2019 from more than 7,100 supporters - 42 times more individual contributors than Republican overtime rival Gary Gates of Rosenberg reported on the campaign finance report that he filed with the Texas Ethics Commission this week.

The good news for the GOP is that Gates filled his war chest with twice as much campaign cash as Markowtiz in November and December for the special House District 28 race that will end with the runoff vote on January 28.

Gates - a familiar name on the ballot as a former House and Senate candidate and statewide contender as well - has fueled his current bid for the Legislature's lower chamber with almost $1.2 million in loans from himself in a district where Markowitz has received more than $618,000 from contributors from coast to coast.

Markowitz raised more than $244,000 between October 29 and December 31 when she entered the final four weeks of the OT battle with a campaign balance of $118,000 compared to nearly $60,000 that Gates had socked away in a bid to prevent a Democratic takeover in the Fort Bend County district that had been a Republican stronghold until now.

But Gates is attempting to come from behind in overtime after advancing to the runoff as the runner up with 28 percent of the vote in the initial election in early November in a seven-candidate field that Markowtiz led with 39 percent as the only Democratic contender.

Gates would appear to have a slight edge on paper in the runoff as the most heavily-armed candidate in a district where President Donald Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton by 10 percentage points in 2016.

But Democrats are optimistic about Markowtiz's chances in the special HD 28 battle slightly more than a year after Republican U.S. Senator Ted Cruz defeated Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke there by a mere 3 points in the race at the top of the 2018 ticket in Texas.

The pressure is clearly on Gates and the Republicans in the overtime fight that could spell doom for the majority party if Markowtiz wins at a time when the GOP is fighting to protect the majority that it's had in the lower chamber in Austin since 2003.

A Markowitz victory in the special HD 28 runoff would leave the Democrats only eight seats short in their quest to take the House back at the polls in November. A partisan turnover this month in HD 28 would put Trump on the ropes in a state where he has to prevail this fall to keep a bid for a second term in the White House alive.

The Republicans would have had a better shot at defending HD 28 if former House Republican John Zerwas would have been on the 2020 ballot in a bid for another term in a chamber where he'd been the chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee during the last two regular sessions. But Zerwas stepped down from the House last fall so he could take a job in higher education instead.

The latest fundraising reports in the special HD 28 contest suggest that Democrats from around the country are taking the race more seriously than partisan Republicans outside of Texas.

About 75 percent of the money that Markowitz raised in the past two months came in tiny chunks from thousands of individual contributors with the lion's share of those giving less than $10 to her.

While Markowitz reported a long list of $1 donations, Hollywood painter Daena Title was one of the Democrat's most generous supporters with a contribution of $36.37. Richard Elrauch of Brooklyn proved to be a relatively major contributor by Markowitz standards after pumping $250 into her campaign in the closing stages of 2019.

Markowtiz had about $20,000 in organized labor money from Washington along with non-monetary contributions from Democratic interests in Texas including more than $11,000 from Planned Parenthood and $26,000 from the House Democratic Campaign Committee for polling and staff.

Gates loaned his campaign $440,000 in the final two months of 2019 when he raised almost $26,000 from 170 individual donors. The Texans for Lawsuit Reform political action committee contributed $5,000 to Gates who also received $1,000 from the PACs for the Texas Medical Association and the Texas Association of Realtors.

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