Travis County Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt is running for Travis County Judge in 2014.
Supporters and media crowded together on the grass as she declared her candidacy May 1 in the backyard of her mother's house. Eckhardt, a Democrat, said she has been inspired by her parents; her father was a U.S. Congressman and her mother worked for two legislators, a congressman, a senator and groups including the public utilities commission.
"They instilled in me a belief that public service is good, honest hard work that matters to people," she said. "We need a leader who can ask hard questions, who can listen carefully to friends and opponents, who can say no when people are asking for too much, and can say yes even to opponents when they have a better idea for getting the job done."
Each year the county's chief executive officer and commissioners court set the tax rate along with countywide policies affecting 1.1 million people. Eckhardt said Travis County has never had a woman in the role, and she hopes to be the first—not because she is a woman, but because of her qualifications.
Eckhardt is the incumbent Travis County Commissioner for Precinct 2, serving west Central and north Central Austin and Pflugerville. She has spent six years working with the commissioners court, and before that spent 14 years working with the county attorney's office.
By state law, announcing her candidacy means she must leave her post on the court. She will continue serving in the office until Judge Samuel Biscoe appoints a qualified representative to replace her.
Biscoe plans to retire and will not seek reelection in 2014. He said he received official notice May 1 from Eckhardt but has been aware of her interest in candidacy for the past year. As early as May 3, he plans to solicit applications with a job posting and hopes to have a replacement appointed sometime within four to six weeks.
Biscoe said the qualifications include being an adult who has lived in Precinct 2 for six months. He said he would prefer to pick someone who does not intend to run for that same office in 2014 to ensure they give the position their full attention.
"In March of 2014, I want the people of Travis County to have a choice of a candidate that has the experience, the love for the subject matter and the courage to do the work," Eckhardt said.
Former county commissioner Karen Huber attended to show her support for Eckhardt's campaign.
"She's hands-down the most qualified [candidate]," Huber said. "County government, and particularly the judge's role, is misunderstood by most people. It's a full-time job managing the county. And it takes a lot of knowledge of the county to be a good leader for the county."
Huber said while she and Eckhardt both served on the commissioners court, they did not agree on everything, but they agree on what she feels are the most important issues.
"I believe Sarah has the intelligence and experience to really be a dynamite judge," she said.
Eckhardt will be running against Andy Brown, who will continue to serve as the Travis County Democratic Party chair until May 19. Brown, who worked on the campaign of Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D–Tx), said he plans to make an announcement soon that he is running for Travis County Judge.
"My campaign is going to be focused on bringing new fresh ideas in county government and bringing people together to solve problems and standing up to Greg Abbot and Rick Perry as they try to attack our values here in Travis County," Brown said.
Rosemary Edwards, chair of the Travis County Republican Party, said the party has not yet declared a representative but is working with a potential candidate and plans to share more information within the next few months.