Who is interested in Kirk Watson’s Senate seat? Here is where local members of the state House stand

State Sen. Kirk Watson announced his resignation from state government Feb. 18. A number of local politicians have expressed interest in the seat.
State Sen. Kirk Watson announced his resignation from state government Feb. 18. A number of local politicians have expressed interest in the seat.

State Sen. Kirk Watson announced his resignation from state government Feb. 18. A number of local politicians have expressed interest in the seat.

When state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, announced his resignation from his seat Feb. 18, he said he would avoid influencing the race for his successor.

“My guess is that there will be a number of people who are very interested in it,” Watson told members of the media in a press conference Feb. 18.

In the days following the announcement, local politicians including Austin City Council Member Greg Casar, Pflugerville City Council Member Rudy Metayer and Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt have expressed interest in the seat.

As Watson prepares to leave office April 30 for a position at the University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs, here are where the five Austin-area members of the Texas House eligible for the senate seat stand on a potential run.

Rep. Sheryl Cole, District 46: Does not intend to run

Cole said she does not intend to run and is focusing on the work she is doing with the House Redistricting Committee.

The former Austin City Council member was first elected in 2018 and is running uncontested this year to retain her District 46 seat in the next legislative session.

Rep. Donna Howard, District 48: “Will not be running for a Senate seat at this time”

In a statement released Feb. 20, Howard called the the opportunity to run for a seat in the Senate a “once-in-a-decade opportunity” and called the chance to serve a larger constituency “appealing.” However, she said she decided against running for the position.

“Ultimately, I am re-energized with an even greater commitment to building on the progress we’ve been able to make in the House of Representatives. I will not be running for a Senate seat at this time,” Howard said.

Howard said she is looking forward to leading the Texas Women’s Health Caucus, crafting the state budget, and is “optimistic that Democrats have a real chance to even the political numbers” in the House.

Howard has represented her district since 2006.

Rep. Gina Hinojosa, District 49: “My place at this time is with my sisters in the Travis County delegation"

Hinojosa called Watson “a leader in the truest sense of the word” in a Facebook post and said she will “miss his regular guidance and advice.”

In another post on Feb. 21, Hinojosa said after consideration, she will not run for the seat and will continue her work in the Texas House.

"Ultimately, I have made a decision that my place at this time is with my sisters in the Travis County delegation as we work towards securing a Democratic House and electing a Democratic Speaker for this next Redistricting session," Hinojosa wrote.

The former Austin ISD board of trustees member was first elected in 2016. She does not have a primary challenger for the Democratic nomination this March. Republicans Jenai Aragona-Hales and Charles Allan Meyer are running to oppose her in November.

Rep. Celia Israel, District 50: “Focus, time and energy are set on taking back the Texas House from Republicans”

Israel is the chair of the House Democratic Campaign Committee and said in an email to supporters “this is a critical year and I’m a woman on a mission.”

“A lot of great people will be running for Senate District 14 to replace Senator Kirk Watson. I am not one of those people,” Israel wrote.

The campaign committee is dedicated to flipping the Texas House to give Democrats a majority. In the 86th Texas Legislature in 2019, Republicans held an 83-64 advantage in the House and a 19-12 advantage in the Senate. Israel said in the email her "focus, time and energy are set on taking back the Texas House from Republicans."

Israel will face a challenge this November for her House seat, which she has held since 2014, from Republican Larry Delarose.

Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, District 51: Seriously considering

Rodriguez said he is seriously considering a run and, In a statement, called Watson a friend and mentor.

“He is a true statesman and role model to the next generation of public policy leaders,” Rodriguez said in the statement.

Rodriguez has served in the state Legislature since 2002. He is running for his eighth term and faces a primary challenge from Joshua Sanchez. Robert Reynolds is running unopposed for the Republican nomination to the seat.

When is the election?

Watson’s office wrote in a media release announcing the senator’s resignation that Gov. Greg Abbott will have a “reasonable amount of time” to call a special election to fill the seat before the start of the 2021 legislative session. Abbott has not yet announced the date for that forthcoming special election.

According to Texas election code, the governor has the authority to call a special election when there is a vacancy in either chamber of the Texas Legislature. When Abbott does call the election, state code stipulates it take place at least 36 days after the order on a uniform election date in March, May or November.

Editor's Note: A clarification was added to note the five members of the House listed are eligible to run for the Senate District 14 seat.


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