Special Election in Texas Was Supposed to be a Democratic Takeover of the Lone Star State

During every election cycle, several special elections have been touted as previews of what is to come. Such was the race to fill the unexpired term of John Zerwas, a Republican member of the Texas House for the 28th District. Democrats believed that they had a chance of a pickup in advance of their goal of flipping control of the Texas House. PJ Media explains:

“HD28 is a red district in a county, Fort Bend, that has been trending blue. Hillary Clinton won it over Donald Trump 51-44 in 2016. Republican incumbent John Zerwas won HD28 +9 in 2018. His decision not to seek another term left it open and the Democrats pulled no punches to try to take it.”

The Democrats pulled out all the stops to try to win the special election that took place on January 28th that pitted Republican businessperson Gary Gates and Democratic educator Eliz Markowitz. National Democrats such as Sen Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden weighed in. Money from outside Texas poured into the race to support the Democratic pickup.

“Sen. Elizabeth Warren endorsed the Democrat. Former vice president Joe Biden did the same. Julian Castro campaigned for the Democrat. Mike Bloomberg bumbled his way into town and apparently knocked on the wrong doors. Beto O’Rourke practically lived in the district for the last few weeks, showing up everywhere giving speeches for the Democratic candidate, Dr. Eliz Markowitz. If one were to go by Twitter, the Dem would win 90-10.”

Beto especially saw the race an opportunity to regain political relevance after his disastrous attempt to gain the Democratic nomination for president. O’Rourke had become a national figure when he almost but not quite managed to knock Ted Cruz from his senate seat, He sought to parlay his national buzz into a run for president. After a promising start, though, Beto quickly ran out of gas due to bizarre behavior and the gradual realization by many Democratic voters that he is an empty suit,

Thus, if Beto could not win an office by himself, he believed that he could become a kingmaker (or in this case a “queen maker”) by using his energy and youth to elect Markowitz as a member of the Texas House. Maybe afterward he could contemplate going for a higher office, say, the governor of Texas.

The Texas Tribune related how the Democratic gambit to flip HD28 turned out.

“With all vote centers reporting Tuesday night, Gates defeated Markowitz by 16 percentage points, 58% to 42%, according to unofficial results. Gates, a businessman who unsuccessfully ran for office several times before, jumped out to a similar lead after early voting and maintained it throughout the night. He will finish the term of former state Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, which expires in January 2021.”

Hot Air has a great analysis of the results of the special election and what lessons that Democrats should take from it going forward.

“Democrats have to learn the same lesson over and over again in Texas. Texas voters don’t appreciate others coming in and telling everyone for whom to vote. Julian Castro was a natural for Markowitz’s campaign endorsements and of course, Beto, since they are Texans but the others? What were the Democrats thinking? Bloomberg and Warren? C’mon on, man. Of the presidential candidates, Biden made the most sense to endorse her since he’s leading in the Texas polls.”

Hot Air went on to suggest that the most badly hurt by the results was Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke. O’Rourke has found a new purpose in life, campaigning for other people. He even has a new organization “Powered by the People” which intends to flip the Texas House and by extension Texas from red to blue. Beto and other Democrats have been encouraged by the results of the 2018 midterms that saw several House seats in Texas flipped from Republican to Democrat. Beto had vowed to return to HD28 to try again during the November elections.

The main takeaway from the Hot Air article is that flipping Texas from red to blue is going to be easier said than done and certainly will not happen in 2020. Indeed, some analysts suggest, depending on who the Democrats nominate to the top of the ticket, that Texas Republicans may regain some lost ground, retaking some of the U.S. House seats that were lost in 2018.