Q&A: Learn more about Markowitz, Gates before the Jan. 28 state House District 28 runoff election

Eliz Markowitz and Gary Gates received the most votes in the race for state House District 28, and they will advance to a Jan. 28 runoff election.
Eliz Markowitz and Gary Gates received the most votes in the race for state House District 28, and they will advance to a Jan. 28 runoff election.

Eliz Markowitz and Gary Gates received the most votes in the race for state House District 28, and they will advance to a Jan. 28 runoff election.

On Jan. 28, voters can head to the polls to cast a ballot in a special runoff election for the next representative of state House District 28, which covers a portion of Fort Bend County.

The ballot will have two candidates: Democrat Eliz Markowitz and Republican Gary Gates. These two received the highest number of votes in the Nov. 5 special election for the seat. Because no single candidate in the race received more than 50% of the vote, the top two candidates proceed to a runoff election.

The first day of in-person early voting is Jan. 21. A list of polling locations can be found here.

Both candidates—along with Republican Schell Hammel—filed for candidacy again to be placed on the ballot for the March 3 primary election in 2020. The general election will be held Nov. 3, 2020, and the winner will serve during the 87th Texas legislative session in 2021.

These Q&As have been edited for length and clarity.

Eliz Markowitz (D)

Occupation: Instructor, corporate trainer, author

Priorities: Public education, health care, disaster recovery, school safety, gerrymandering, criminal justice

Years in the district: 20

Phone: 281-785-0432

Email: operations@eliz4tx.com

Website: www.eliz4tx.com

Why are you running for this seat?

In 2018, I ran for the Texas State Board of Education because I wanted to work to improve Texas public schools. While running, I heard about all the challenges that Texans face beyond education, such as healthcare, economic development, criminal justice reform, disaster management and school safety. I also learned that Texans want an honest representative that will conduct herself with integrity and work to improve the lives of all Texans—not just a select few. Because of my education and experience in business, technology, healthcare, and education, I believe I am uniquely qualified to address the challenges our state faces.

What sets you apart from the other candidate?

Beyond my experience in the fields of business, healthcare and education, I believe I am the only candidate willing to call out the corruption and dysfunction coming out of Austin. Our politicians are no longer accountable to voters but instead do the bidding of outside corporate interests or extreme partisan groups. I am running to implement logical, sustainable solutions. I also believe I’m the only candidate willing to call for an independent redistricting committee to draw fair maps following the 2020 Census.

What would you say is the biggest challenge for the district and how do you plan to address it?

We must reassess the role that development and property taxes play in our district. Development must happen in a way that invites businesses into our community without displacing families who have been here for generations. Similarly, we must reform our school finance system to reduce reliance on property taxes, which are pushing people out of their homes and create an inequitable education system. Lastly, too many parts of this district are still struggling from the ravages of Hurricane Harvey—we must immediately implement plans to mitigate disasters and ensure the welfare of the displaced during and after such events.

In conversations with constituents, what issue has been brought up the most?

The voters I’ve spoken with in House District 28 repeatedly ask what we can do about the dysfunction and corruption coming out of Austin. They want to know what can be done to get our government working for the people again, and they fear that our elected officials don’t have the character or temperament to reach across the aisle to implement common-sense solutions. Individuals in House District 28 and in Fort Bend County are tired of the divisiveness and negative rhetoric within the district and want a representative that is focused on unity and affecting positive change.

In the 86th legislative session, the main priorities were property taxes, education finance and flood mitigation. Are you satisfied with the outcomes on these issues?

In short, no. While progress was made with the passage of House Bill 3, the state does not currently pay its fair share into our public education system. The current approach requires districts to rely on the state for money and is unsustainable. Furthermore, not all school employees were provided compensation, the provided funding was far less than originally promised, and almost all of that increase will go directly to rising health care costs. We must develop and implement long-term solutions that support educators both during employment and retirement. Lastly, we saw progress with the passage of Senate Bill 2, which allocated $1.7 billion to invest in flood infrastructure, but since this district has seen three 500-year floods in the past five years, we need to invest more into flood mitigation and control. Furthermore, we must address the threat of climate change.

What issues do you hope to address in the 87th legislative session?

Texas ranks 34th in the nation in education, 50th in health care access and affordability and 50th in disaster preparedness. Clearly, we must do better—Texans deserve better. We must lower the cost of prescription drugs, expand Medicaid, and develop rural health care centers. We must also end our reliance on high-stakes STAAR testing as a metric of school accountability. Additionally, we must improve the state’s ability to respond to natural disasters and other crises.

Gary Gates (R)

Occupation: Business owner

Priorities: Protect taxpayers, secure the border, support our schools, enhance school safety

Years in the district: 27

Phone: 281-301-5477

Email: info@gatesfortexas.com

Website: www.gatesfortexas.com

Why are you running for this seat?

My father was a talented American Air Force pilot when he was tragically murdered when I was just eighteen. I had to step up and support my family and started driving trucks but soon found success in buying, renovating and renting homes. Since then, I have built my business to 500 employees.

I’ve been blessed in my business, with my family, and in my life. The success I have should be available to everyone. I’m on a mission to galvanize our American and Texas freedoms for us, for our children and for our future generations.

What sets you apart from the other candidate?

I’m a businessman, not a politician. Being state representative is not a stepping stone for me. I’ve made my success in my business and with my family. My motivation is being able to give back and fight for policies that allow future generations to achieve the success I have been blessed with.

What would you say is the biggest challenge for the district and how do you plan to address it?

As a community grows, the first pain points that are felt are in the schools. Oftentimes, our schools in growing communities are trying to catch up to meet the demands of the growth. The state needs to continue to support our public schools, not only to address the demands of growth but also to provide property tax relief for local tax payers.

In conversations with constituents, what issue has been brought up the most?

Without a doubt, the top two issues with constituents is high property taxes and securing the border, particularly to address drug and human trafficking. Texans want to know they will be able to afford to stay in their homes and that their families are safe. I’ll be a strong advocate on both these fronts.

In the 86th legislative session, the main priorities were property taxes, education finance and flood mitigation. Are you satisfied with the outcomes on these issues?

While progress was made in the recent legislative session on all the fronts, they are in no way permanently solved. The best way to ensure the state has the resources to fund education [and] address flood mitigation while lowering taxes is to pass policies that ensure a robust Texas economy. As a businessman, I plan to do just that.

What issues do you hope to address in the 87th legislative session?

We need to continue the work of providing property tax relief, do what the state can in securing the border, support our public schools and ensure Texas remains open for business to create the good jobs our families need.
By Jen Para

Jen joined Community Impact Newspaper in fall 2018 as the editor of the Katy edition. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, Jen has written about business, politics and education. Prior to CI, Jen was the web producer at Houston Business Journal.


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