When former state Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, announced his resignation in July as the representative of state House District 28—which covers a portion of Katy, Sugar Land and Fulshear in Fort Bend County—he set up a series of elections to lead to his replacement: a special election, a special election runoff, 2020 primary and the 2020 general election.
“[This many elections do] have an effect on costs and time,” said John Oldham, Fort Bend County elections administrator. “Hosting an election is not a one-day job. There’s planning and prepping weeks ahead of election day.”
Oldham estimates the Jan. 28 special runoff election between Democrat Eliz Markowitz and Republican Gary Gates will cost the county about $46,000 in hard costs, such as poll worker wages and rent for polling locations.
But when factoring in staff time that could be devoted to other tasks and equipment depreciation, the Jan. 28 election could cost the county as much as $70,000, he said.
The special election also came as a surprise to the candidates. Markowitz said when she filed her candidacy with the state Democratic Party to run for District 28 in February, she only expected to run in the 2020 primary and the general election. But Zerwas’ resignation meant she would toss her hat in the special election.
“It’s a matter of principle,” she said. “[The state House needs] to be at full capacity. You never know if a special session will be called.”
Gates, who filed after Zerwas made his announcement, said he chose to run for the seat knowing there would likely be several fast-paced elections.
“You can’t let the seat be vacant,” he said. “Just because the House isn’t in session doesn’t mean the constituents don’t have issues [to be addressed].”
Both Markowitz and Gates filed their candidacies for the March 3, 2020, primary before a winner of the Nov. 5 special election had been declared. The Dec. 9 deadline for filing for Texas primaries came weeks ahead of the Jan. 28 District 28 runoff election.
The five other candidates of the Nov. 5 special election could have filed again for the primaries, but none of them chose to. As of press time, one candidate in addition to Markowitz and Gates has filed for the 2020 primary. Schell Hammel, who did not run in the Nov. 5 special election, will be on the March 3 Republican primary ballot.
But whoever wins the Jan. 28 race—Markowitz or Gates—will run as the incumbent of District 28 without having served in a regular Texas legislative session.