Is Texas slowly turning blue? That was the question on many minds leading up to the special election to replace Republican John Zerwas as state representative for District 28. The January 28 runoff has come and gone, and it seems we have our answer. Despite all the hard work by Democrats from across the nation, Gary Gates (R) defeated Elizabeth Markowitz (D) with a 16% lead and a solid majority of the vote.
A Failed Test
As Beto O’Rourke – yes, that Beto O’Rourke, the inflatable tube man – said while campaigning for Dr. Markowitz, “This is one of the most important elections taking place in the country right now.” As of the 2010 census, the district had a population of 160,373 – though the AP has it at around 220,000 more recently – and is considered one of the nation’s most ethnically diverse. According to Ballotpedia, it’s 46.6% white, 22% Hispanic, 14.4% black, and a 17% mix of everyone else – with 67.3% of them old enough to vote, though only about 20% actually did.
In a state of millions – with nearby Houston having over two million people alone – how can such a small number of voters in District 28 either bring about or stop the turn of Texas from a GOP guarantee to a progressive paradise? Of course they can’t. But with a 53.3% majority of the population being non-white, Democrats had hoped for a hint at the answer to the question plaguing them as the 2020 election nears: Has all the scandal surrounding President Trump’s first term and the impeachment cost him – and the GOP – the diverse, suburban vote? Well, they got an answer, but they didn’t like it. The district often called America’s most diverse – which Trump won by ten points back in 2016 – still isn’t ready to go blue.
If the District 28 special election was a test of the GOP’s, and therefore Trump’s, popularity, then the Democrats failed miserably – and they studied so hard.
They Studied So Hard
Beto wasn’t the only nationally known Democrat to stump for Markowitz. Julián Castro backed her as well. Michael Bloomberg went door-to-door with her. Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren both officially endorsed her, and a plethora of political groups supported her with donations and advertisements.
Gary Gates – who did not receive anywhere near that level of publicity from the big names in his own party – still managed to win a 58% majority. And he faced a TV ad funded by a national Democratic group called Forward Majority that brought up allegations from 2000 that Gates had abused some of his 11 adopted children.
A Long Shot
Democrats may have had high hopes after Dr. Markowitz managed a plurality of 39.1% to Gates’ 28.4% in the November 2019 general election for the position. As the lone Democrat, she got 100% of her party’s vote – though it still wasn’t enough of a lead to avoid a runoff. Gates, on the other hand, was simply one of six. When the runoff came around, Gates seemed all but guaranteed to bring home at least a good chunk of the 32.4% of the vote that initially went to the other five Republicans.
The district backed Republican John Zerwas every election for a decade. Unfortunately for the Democrats, it still isn’t quite ready to turn blue. But what of the rest of MAGA country?
Read more from James Fite.