Democratic hopes that a special state House election in Texas would show they had the clout to turn the Lone Star State blue were dashed Tuesday night after voters handed a massive win to Republican Gary Gates.
Gates defeated Democrat Eliz Markowitz 58 percent to 42 percent in the 28th District special election to fill a vacant seat, according to The Hill.
“Democrats everywhere said this Texas election was a ‘bellwether’ — and that it would set the tone for the entire 2020 election cycle,” said Austin Chambers, president of the Republican State Leadership Committee, according to the Houston Chronicle.
“Spoiler alert: They’re right, it was — just not with the outcome Democrats hoped for,” he said.
In a statement, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott celebrated the party’s victory.
“Today, voters resoundingly rejected the Democrats’ socialist ideology and took a major step toward keeping Texas red. As we look ahead to the 2020 election, we must be prepared to replicate this success across the state if we are to secure a more prosperous future for Texas,” he said, according to The Hill.
Republican Gary Gates handily beats Democrat Eliz Markowitz in Texas House District 28 runoffhttps://hillcountrypost.org/republican-gary-gates-handily-beats-democrat-eliz-markowitz-in-texas-house-district-28-runoff/ pic.twitter.com/jQnlJwdmMA
— Hill Country Post (@HC_PostTexas) January 29, 2020
The district appeared to be at play because although President Donald Trump won it by 10 points in 2016, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz won it by only 3 points when he defeated O’Rourke last year.
Democrats nationally and in Texas put more than $1 million into the race, CBS reported.
A parade of current and former Democratic presidential contenders had endorsed Markowitz or campaigned in the suburban Houston district to support Markowitz.
The list included former Vice President Joe Biden, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, according to CBS.
One commentator said that was part of the problem.
“They made a big mistake by nationalizing,” Republican strategist Karl Rove said, according to The Associated Press.
Many on Twitter derided the Democrats for failing to flip the seat, which had been held by former state Rep. John Zerwas.
There was a special election for a Texas State House district, #28, in Fort Bend County today. Democrats made a big deal about flipping it – even persuaded @politico to write about it. Well, the Republican kicked butt. https://t.co/PIRqKGBEsm
— Kelly D Johnston (@johnston_kelly) January 29, 2020
Congratulations to my new colleague in the Texas House, Gary Gates, on his victory in the special election for District 28! This was a hard fought battle, drawing nationwide attention from Dems who thought they could flip this seat. HD-28 showed them otherwise! #KeepTexasRed pic.twitter.com/hVExvA4Av2
— Will Metcalf (@willmetcalfTX) January 29, 2020
O’Rourke had said in December that his top political priority was giving Democrats control of the state House.
“Everything flows up from that,” he said, according to the Texas Tribune. “So not only could Democrats gain control of the House and make progress on stormwater infrastructure, health care, gun violence, climate and education, but that will incidentally help the federal races — from U.S. Congress to U.S. Senate — and I also think it’s also going to lay the groundwork for whoever the presidential nominee is.”
His connection with Markowitz was underlined, the Tribune reported, when he introduced himself at a December rally as “Beto O’Rourke, volunteer for the Eliz Markowitz campaign.”
Texas GOP Chairman James Dickey said Republicans were able to offset the infusion of outside influence by collaboration and coordination.
“We will defend Texas from the liberals’ socialism and we will unite to fight again for victories from the White House to the courthouse this November. We will keep Texas red,” Dickey said, according to CBS.
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