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.
SHARE THIS STORY

Jack Flagler



MOST RECENT

A photo of the exterior of The Sobering Center
Austin and Travis County sobering center will provide quarantine for high-risk homeless individuals as shelter-in-place continues

Homeless individuals at risk of developing complications with the coronavirus will be sheltered at The Sobering Center in downtown Austin.

The ZACH Theatre has postponed or canceled all its events through April and most of May. Due to the lost revenue, the theatre announced March 31 it had laid off 75% of its employees. (Courtesy ZACH Theatre)
Austin's ZACH Theatre furloughs 75% of staff

The furloughed employees will continue to receive health benefits. All events scheduled at the theater through April and most of May have been canceled or postponed.

Austin City Council is scheduled to vote on the aid program at its April 9 meeting. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin City Council mulling financial aid package for city’s most vulnerable residents

The program would send additional city budget funds to organizations helping Austin's most vulnerable residents.

Data from the Texas Center for Nursing Workforce Studies shows that Central Texas will have a shortage of more than 7,000 registered nurses by 2030. (Graphic design by Shelby Savage/Community Impact Newspaper)
With Central Texas facing a nursing shortage, new rules could help more nurses join the fight against the coronavirus

With a potential shortage of 20,000 hospital beds in the local area by June, it is unclear if hospitals will be able to provide adequate staffing.

Texas Health and Human Services announced in a press release March 31 the statewide COVID-19 support line will be available seven days a week and toll free at 833-986-1919. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
‘It is important to recognize how our mental health can be affected by the pandemic': Statewide mental health support line established in light of COVID-19

Texans experiencing anxiety, stress or other emotional challenges in light of the COVID-19 pandemic will now be able to utilize a 24-hour mental health support line.

Dojo Kyle Jiu-Jitsu is located at 111 S. Main St., Kyle. (Courtesy Dojo Kyle Jiu-Jitsu)
4 Austin-area coronavirus stories from March 31

Here are four Austin-area stories pertaining to the coronavirus that you may have missed March 31.

Gov. Greg Abbott updated Texans and issued an executive order regarding the state's response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis during a March 31 afternoon press conference. (Screenshot via livestream)
'Now is the time to redouble our efforts': Abbott issues executive order for state on COVID-19 extending school closures, clarifying essential services

Gov. Greg Abbott updated Texans and issued an executive order regarding the state's response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis during a March 31 afternoon press conference.

Unsure of where to be counted in the 2020 census as a college student? Here is a guide. (Community Impact Staff)
U.S. Census 2020: When and where college students should be counted

As colleges and universities move to distance learning, here is how to students can make sure they are counted accurately in the 2020 census.

The Austin Board of Realtors and Williamson County Association of Realtors said showings have decreased, but sales remain robust. (Community Impact staff)
Austin, Williamson County realtors get creative, using digital tools to show homes; sales data coming soon

The Austin Board of Realtors and Williamson County Association of Realtors said showings have decreased, but sales remain robust.

The Crowne Plaza Hotel is located at 6121 N. I-35 in North Central Austin. (Courtesy Google Maps)
Austin secures 292-room hotel lease as coronavirus quarantine resource

The hotel in North Central Austin will be used for "quarantine and isolation purposes," according to city staff.

Austin ISD modernization work continuing amid coronavirus stay-at-home order

Construction is continuing during Austin and Travis County’s stay-at-home order because of education facilities’ statues as essential infrastructure.

The city of Austin issued a stay-at-home order March 24. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Coronavirus update: Travis County positive case total rises to 244 as of March 31, including 28 spring break travelers

Keep up with updates from Travis County and Austin for the week of March 30 here.