Special elections are strange animals, and anything can happen in them (e.g. Laura Thompson becoming the first independent to win a House since 1936), but an Eliz Markowitz victory on Tuesday must be considered an upset were it to occur. Markowitz faces Rosenberg real estate investor Gary Gates, who is making his third run for this seat and sixth overall run for state office since 2002.

Gary Gates

Gary
Gates

Eliz Markowitz

Eliz
Markowitz

In the November special election, the six Republican candidates collectively received 61% of the vote, led by Gates’s 28%. Markowitz, the lone Democrat in the race, received the other 39%. Turnout was 19.7% of 148K registered voters. Markowitz received a majority of votes in 11 of the district’s 35 precincts. We expected Markowitz to be the clubhouse leader after the first round, but also thought her best chance of flipping the seat was winning outright then, when Republicans’ support was divided.

While this Fort Bend Co. district has gone from 14 points redder than the state as a whole in 2002 to less than a point redder in 2018, it was still nearly 3 points redder than any House district won by a Democrat that year. The majority of this observed partisan shift has occurred since 2014, when the district was 8 points redder than the state and the average statewide Democratic candidate received 30% of the vote head-to-head against the Republican. The average statewide Democrat fared 15.5 percentage points better in 2018 than in 2014, but still lost by an average of 9 points.

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