It’s not a pipe dream to say the GOP could lose the Texas House of Representatives this fall. Conservatives have had a lock on state government for decades.
“Most people think there are about 17 seats where Democrats think they have a legitimate shot,” Houston-based political strategist Keir Murray said in an interview. “These are all districts that Republicans won by less than 10 points, many of these districts Beto O’Rourke won the district or came very close to winning.”
The energy and turnout that propelled many of those previous down-ballot victories in 2018 is only expected to grow in 2020. “With the presidential turnout that tends to favor Democrats in Texas, I think that most people think with adequate funding, with good candidates there is a legitimate chance to take back the House,” Murray added.
If Democrats are successful in closing the 9-seat gap in the House, it would give them a seat at the table when it comes to drawing the state’s political districts. “These districts stand for a decade,” Murray said. “The implications of redistricting are so important for governance of the state, for control, for power, for what interests take priority in the legislature.”
Murray believes Democrats should play hardball on redistricting. “You could see a scenario where the Democrats in the House say we’re doing this [redistricting] first, we’ll pass reasonably fair maps, or we’re not doing anything else,’” he said. “My strong hope is that if the Democrats were to take back the chamber that’s the tactic they’d use because it’s that important.”
While virtually all of the Texas House elections will take place Nov. 3, the first race of the year is already underway. With early voting starting Tuesday, about a week remains until the Jan. 28 election for House District 28 in Fort Bend County, outside of Houston.
A lifelong native of the area, Dr. Elizabeth Markowitz, is running against Republican businessman Gary Gates.
When asked about what voters should know about her Republican opponent Gates, Markowitz told the Signal, “To be honest, I’m not running against Gary Gates, I’m running for positive change.”
“I’m not focused on his race,” she continued. “I’m focused on running a positive campaign on the issues of HD28, Fort Bend County, and the state of Texas. I hope that when people go to the polls, they’re voting for something and not against something.”
If Markowitz wins or comes close to winning, “it would send a signal that the ball game is on for the fall, that the talk that has gone on since the 2018 elections about the vulnerability of Texas House Republicans in the suburbs is legitimate, and you’re going to see all-out war for the next 10 months for control of the chamber,” Murray said.
Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images
Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org