Elections 2020IssuesState HouseThe Back MicThe Back Mic: Big Spenders in the House District 28 Special Election

The Back Mic — This week we analyze the money spent on the Fort Bend County special election showdown between Gary Gates and Eliz Markowitz.
January 31, 2020

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On Tuesday, the first elections of 2020 took place, with the most noteworthy being the Fort Bend County matchup to replace retiring State Rep. John Zerwas (R-Richmond). This race took on a national spotlight and saw big money spent by members of both political parties.

Eliz Markowitz, the lone Democrat who consolidated support from her party, including the biggest national players in the Democratic party, faced off against Gary Gates, a Republican businessman with a propensity for running for office and spending millions of his own money on his campaigns. 

Gates prevailed handily, securing a 16-point victory and becoming, at least for now, Texas’ newest state representative.

Here’s a look at where the money in each of the candidates’ campaign coffers came from according to the most recent filings with the Texas Ethics Commission.

The Texan Tumbler

Eliz Markowitz (D) —  secured 42 percent of the vote

  • Forward Majority, a group aiming to “take back GOP-held state legislative chambers,” spent $420,000 helping Markowitz.
  • The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee spent approximately $170,000 on the race.
  • The House Democratic Campaign Committee, chaired by Texas State Rep. Celia Israel (D-Austin), spent nearly $120,000.
  • Annie’s List, the Texas progressive women’s group, spent nearly $30,000 on the race.
  • The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) spent over $27,000.
  • The Future Now Fund and the National Democratic Redistricting Committee each spent $25,000.
  • The nature of Markowitz’s widespread support from political giants like Joe Biden and Beto O’Rourke undoubtedly helped the candidate receive a myriad of individual donations from Democrats all across the country, including states like New York, Virginia, Arizona, California, and South Carolina. 

Gary Gates (R) — secured 58 percent of the vote

  • The final filing showed the candidate owed himself a total of $1.8 million for campaign expenses. Gates is known to continually loan himself hundreds of thousands of dollars at a time throughout the course of his campaigns.
  • Gates received donations from Texas State Rep. John Frullo (R-Lubbock), who donated $500, and Congressman Randy Weber (R-TX-14), whose campaign donated $2,000.
  • The Associated Republicans of Texas, a group that’s been known to support officials or candidates like former Texas Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio), spent $14,000 on in-kind donations.
  • Texans for Lawsuit Reform donated $5,000.
  • The Associated Builders and Contractors of Texas and the Texas Oil and Gas Association each donated $2,000.
  • The Beer Alliance of Texas donated $500.
  • The Independent Bankers Association of Texas, Centerpoint Energy and the Texas Association of Realtors each donated $1,000.

Though the seat is now filled, both Markowitz and Gates each have a primary election in March and a general election in November to compete in before either makes it to the legislature in 2021.


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McKenzie Taylor

McKenzie Taylor

McKenzie Taylor serves as Senior Editor and resident plate-spinner for The Texan. Previously, she worked as State Representative Kyle Biedermann’s Capitol Director during the 85th legislative session before moving to Fort Worth to manage Senator Konni Burton’s campaign. In her free time, you might find her enjoying dog memes, staring at mountains, or proctoring personality tests.