Note: This report has been updated since we sent our Breaking News alert.
Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) announced he is resigning effective April 30 to become the founding dean of the Univ. of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs.
“Thank you for all the kind words today,” Watson tweeted late this afternoon. “When Liz and I came to Austin almost 40 years ago, this community just wrapped itself around us and has lifted us up. Today is no different.”
The former Austin mayor was first elected to the Senate in 2006 and has been re-elected four times. His resignation will trigger a special election to fill his unexpired term. Watson is not up for re-election this year.
The November 3 general election and May 2 uniform election are the likeliest dates for a special election. In order to be held on May 2, Abbott would need to issue a proclamation ordering the election no later than March 26.
Reps. Sheryl Cole (D-Austin), Gina Hinojosa (D-Austin), Donna Howard (D-Austin) and Celia Israel (D-Austin) are unopposed in the Democratic primary, and Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin) faces token opposition. All are expected to prevail in the November general election, but the timing of the election could dramatically affect those re-election bids. Section 141.033, Election Code bars candidates from filing applications for two offices “to be voted on at one or more elections held on the same day” unless that second office is President of Vice President. A special election coinciding with the November general election would do precisely that for legislative candidates running currently for re-election. A May special election that would essentially be a“free” chance at a promotion for any current House member.
Any city council member or mayor wishing to seek Watson’s seat would be required to resign in order to run. Watson told reporters he did not plan to get involved in the race to succeed him.
“Kirk has been my mentor for my entire time in public office,” Rodriguez said in a statement. “He is a true statesman and role model to the next generation of public policy leaders.” He did not address whether he would seek the seat.
The Austin American-Statesman’s Chuck Lindell reported Rodriguez is “strongly considering” entering the race and Howard intends to discuss the seat with the Democratic House delegation. Hinojosa is still “absorbing the news” and believes it is too early to discuss her potential candidacy. Cole is not expected to seek Watson’s seat. A spokesperson said she was not interested in the race.
Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt is also looking at a potential campaign for the seat, Lindell reported, and Austin council member Greg Casar is “very strongly considering” the race. Attorney Chito Vela III, who lost the 2018 Democratic runoff for HD46 to Cole, will make a decision “shortly.” Attorney Adam Loewy tweeted that he is “on the list” of people considering the race.
No woman has ever been elected to serve SD14, which the campaign offers opportunities to make history for some of the candidates in the potential field. Just four men have held the seat since 1956: Charles Herring (1957-1973), Lloyd Doggett (1973-1985), Gonzalo Barrientos (1985-2007) and Watson (2007-present).
No Republican has held the seat since Reconstruction.
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