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HD-28 results: Markowitz and Gates go to a runoff

HD-28 results send Markowitz and Gates to a runoff election. A Texas House seat in Fort Bend County is in for a runoff election.

Democrat Eliz Markowitz and Republican Gary Gates are the top two finishers in the HD-28 race.

The candidates are running to replace John Zerwas. Zerwas left politics in September to join the University of Texas system.

He’s now the universities’ executive vice chancellor for health affairs. The attention on the campaign has turned HD-28  into a national targeted special election.

Democrats are looking to flip what was a Republican-held seat. Markowitz was able to draw hundreds of thousands of dollars in support from state and national Democrats. 

A number of high-profile surrogates visited the district to campaign for her, including Beto O’Rourke — during his presidential campaign.

HD-28 results: Markowitz’s background

Markowitz has a Ph.D. in education, two master’s degrees in science and a bachelor’s degree in computer science.

While pursuing her degrees, Markowitz also worked for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

She started out in the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Later, she transferred to the Office of the National Coordinator: Health Information Technology’s office.

Markowitz went on to receive her Ph. D. in education from the University of Houston. She currently works at the Princeton Review as a teacher, corporate trainer, content developer, and author.

The HD-28 results show that it’s possible for Democrats to flip the seat. If HD-28 flips, it will put the Democrats one step closer to the nine seats they need for a majority in the Texas House.

With all votes in, Markowitz finished first with 39 percent of the vote, according to unofficial returns. Republican Gary Gates was the runner-up with 28 percent.

Democrats weren’t done celebrating Markowitz’s first-place finish when they started laying the groundwork for the runoff. “Our movement is people-powered — not self-funded,” Markowitz said in a statement, sending a jab at Gates. Gates made his fortune in real estate and largely self-funded his campaign. 

HD-28 results: Gates background

Gates loaned his campaign more than $700,000. Despite his wealth, Gates has been unable to secure elected office. He has lost seven previous campaigns for office. 

Gates’ record of spending money on losing races has given Texas politicos a healthy dose of skepticism when it comes to campaigns.

“I can’t help but feel that Gates was [the Republicans’] third-best choice in this race,” Charles Kuffner wrote.

Kuffner went on to state that Gates’ “main asset is that he’s loaded and willing to spend on himself.”

Gates has self-financed and lost two campaigns for the Texas House, two for the Texas Senate and two for local school board.

Gates’ most recent defeat, in a 2016 race for the Texas Railroad Commission, came after a bruising campaign. Gates faced allegations of abusing his foster children in the early 2000s and neglecting crime at his multiple, low-income apartment complexes.

Gates’ 2016 opponent, Railroad Commissioner Wayne Christian, called Gates “a slumlord.” Christian’s attack was based on a lawsuit filed by the city of Houston.

In 2007, the city sued to have one of Gates’ properties declared a nuisance. The city was attempting to get the Deerfield Apartments closed because of rampant crime on the property.

The lawsuit documented 55 offenses on Gates’ property over a two-year period. Complaints ranged from “prostitution and drug offenses to sexual assault and capital murder,” according to a report from the Texas Tribune. 

Gates was also sued by the parents of Jose Luis Briones. Briones was 9-years-old when he was shot in the back during a robbery at the Deerfield complex.

Gates settled with the Briones for $3,500. Deerfield isn’t the only apartment where Gates has had problems.

In 2001, an off-duty police officer working security at Gates’ Natchez House apartment complex was killed in a shootout. As tragic as the shooting was, residents said it wasn’t out of the ordinary.

“There’s always something violent around here,” one resident told the Houston Chronicle.

After it became clear that Markowitz would be facing Gates in the runoff, Texas Democrat Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa issued a statement. 

Hinojosa called Gates a “Trump Republican hellbent on buying this election.”

On Wednesday morning, Gov. Greg Abbott, who didn’t endorse in the special election, issued a statement congratulating Gates on his “strong performance” and backing him in the runoff.

Gates was one of three serious GOP candidates out of six total. The other viable Republicans in the race were Tricia Krenek and Anna Allred. 

Krenek is a former member of the Fulshear City Council and Allred is an anesthesiologist from Katy. Krenek received 18 percent of the vote and Allred received 9 percent. 

Allred conceded at about 10:30 p.m. She said she was “disappointed with the results” but “pleased with our campaign.”

The race for House District 28 was one of three contests Tuesday to fill state House seats. The others happened in Democratic districts. Runoffs will happen there as well. 

The Texas Tribune contributed to this report.

For more reporting on elections check out Reform Austin on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Written by RA News staff.

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