By STEFAN MODRICH
Texas Democrats had circled three key Fort Bend-area Texas House races in their bid to win nine seats to take control of the chamber, but failed to do so. However, Democrats cleaned up in Fort Bend County district judicial races and also flipped a constable precinct into the blue column.
Republicans held firm in House District 28, where incumbent State Rep. Gary Gates won with 55 percent of the vote to Democratic challenger Eliz Markowitz’s 44 percent.
Republican candidate Jacey Jetton bested Democrat Sarah DeMerchant by more than 3,000 votes for the House District 28 seat held by Rick Miller, a Republican. Jetton is the first Korean-American to be elected to the Texas House.
It was DeMerchant’s third such defeat, having run against Miller in 2016 and again in 2018.
Miller decided not to run for another term after his racially-charged remarks about Jetton and Leonard Chan, telling the Houston Chronicle in a December 2019 interview that his opponents at the time entered the primary because they were Asian, in a district where roughly a quarter of the population is of Asian descent.
House District 85, which is primarily in rural Wharton County and Jackson County, but contains parts of Richmond, Rosenberg, and Sugar Land, also remained in the GOP’s hands. While the race between Republican State Rep. Phil Stephenson and Democratic challenger Joey Cardenas III in Fort Bend County ended up in favor of the incumbent by 106 votes, Stephenson won the overall race convincingly — 56 percent to 41 percent, or by more than 11,000 votes.
Democrats retained State Rep. Ron Reynolds’ seat in House District 27, as the incumbent won handily, with 67 percent of the vote to Republican challenger Tom Virippan’s 32 percent.
In addition to flipping the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office, with Democrat Eric Fagan beating Republican Trever Nehls for the right to succeed Nehls’ twin brother, Troy, Democrats also made big gains at the county level, winning several judicial races and electing the county’s first African-American Tax Assessor-Collector and County Attorney.
Carmen Turner, the newly-elected Tax Assessor-Collector, received 175,412 votes, or 51.93 percent of the vote to beat Republican James Pressler, who got 162,406 votes, or 48.07 percent.
Bridgette Smith-Lawson, the County Attorney-elect, defeated Republican Steve Rogers by more than 17,000 votes.
County voters also elected the first Muslim county constable, Democrat Nabil Shike, to replace Trever Nehls, who vacated the Precinct 4 Constable’s Office to run for sheriff. Shike defeated Republican John Hermann by less than 3,000 votes.
In addition, the Democrats flipped three district court judgeships, unseating Republican incumbents Brenda Mullinix in District 387, Maggie Jaramillo in District 400, and 14-year Republican incumbent Jim Shoemake in District 434.
Janet Buening Heppard won with 174,269 votes, or 51.95 percent, to Mullinix’s 161,207 votes , or 48.05 percent.
Tamieka Carter earned 173,361 votes, or 51.48 percent, to Jaramillo’s 163,363 votes, or 48.52 percent.
Democrat Christian Becerra defeated Shoemake by more than 21,000 votes.
County voters approve bonds for parks, roads
Two proposed bonds — a mobility bond appearing on the ballot as Proposition A and a parks bond appearing as Proposition B — were both supported by a majority of county voters.
The mobility bond was supported by 75 percent of voters, and will issue more than $218 million to 59 projects involving the construction, maintenance and operation of county roads. A full list of the projects is available here. The projects will take place in Missouri City, Meadows Place, Richmond, Rosenberg, Stafford and Sugar Land as well as Kendleton, Fairchilds, Needville and Fulshear.
The parks bond will devote $38.4 million to county park facilities in Fort Bend Houston, Sugar Land, Richmond and Rosenberg, among others. A full list of the park projects included in the bond is here.