Dr. Elizabeth Markowitz, known as Eliz (pronounced like “e-mail,” she says), ran and lost a race for the Texas State Board of Education’s District 7 seat in 2018. She went on to receive the most votes in the special election for Texas House District 28, so she’s now in a runoff with Republican Gary Gates. The seat was formerly held by Republican John Zerwas, who resigned last September to take a job with the University of Texas System.
But there’s a lot more at stake in this race.
Former presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke has made this race a priority in his effort to turn the Texas House blue. Currently, Democrats are nine seats away from flipping the House. Besides O’Rourke, Markowitz has garnered endorsements from Michael Bloomberg, Julián Castro, Joe Biden, and most recently, Elizabeth Warren.
“I’m joining Democrats across Texas and the country who are jumping all in for Eliz, because I know she’s the fighter we need to put real change on the agenda for all Texans,” the Massachusetts senator said in a statement. “As an educator and advocate, Eliz has shown up for her community time and again. The people of Fort Bend County and the 28th District deserve a woman like Eliz in the House.”
“We’re trying to unify the diverse voices in the Democratic Party,” Markowitz says. “I think this race will set the tone for 2020, for both Austin and D.C. This is an important election; we just need people to get out and vote.” Early voting ends January 24, and Election Day is on the 28th.
“My opponent has more money and is self-funding a lot of his campaign and TV ads,” Markowitz says. “But we’re running a ground campaign, and I think the one-on-one approach is better. The 28th District is the fastest-growing district in the state, and it’s becoming more diverse. We had more than 400 volunteers last week knocking on 25,000 doors. People are really energized.”
If Markowitz wins this race, she will become the first Democrat, the first woman, and the first gay woman, to win this seat. It is a bellwether test for Democrats for the upcoming state and national 2020 elections.
Markowitz, a Texas native, earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science and studio art at Trinity University in San Antonio. During her years at Trinity, she worked as a teacher at both The Princeton Review and the Southwest School of Art.
She went on to receive an advanced degree in technology management at the University of Texas in San Antonio. To help put herself through graduate school, she worked at a lesbian bar. At the University of Texas at Houston, Markowitz conducted research on electronic medical records usage and worked with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. She then earned a doctoral degree in curriculum and instruction in 2017. Today, she continues as a trainer for The Princeton Review, and she’s co-authored a book, High School Algebra I Unlocked: Your Key to Mastering Algebra I. Along the way, she has also been heavily involved in LGBTQ and Democratic causes.
She says that her run for the Texas State Board of Education made her realize that her Texas neighbors were interested not only in education, but also in healthcare and disaster management.
Still, her first priority as a Texas legislator would be to file a bill to eliminate STAAR testing (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness).
“And then I would listen to my constituents. I want to represent the people.”
If Markowitz wins the runoff this month, she will still have to keep fighting to stay in the District 28 seat. This is a special election to fill a vacated seat, but only until the regular election in November.
“Yep,” she says, “we’ll have to turn around and do it all again in November.”