Jonesin' for an Office at the Capitol

Kirk Watson formalizes plans to roll into the state Senate; and a roundup of area House races

Former Austin Mayor Kirk Watson made it official on Oct. 5 - he is running for state Senate district 14, currently held by Gonzalo Barrientos. Barrientos announced previously he would not seek re-election to the seat he has held for 20 years.
Former Austin Mayor Kirk Watson made it official on Oct. 5 - he is running for state Senate district 14, currently held by Gonzalo Barrientos. Barrientos announced previously he would not seek re-election to the seat he has held for 20 years. (Photo By John Anderson)

Former Austin Mayor Kirk Watson generated a fair amount of buzz several weeks ago when he announced his intention to run for Senate District 14. So his campaign kickoff event last Wednesday seemed a tad anticlimactic, given his widely perceived shoo-in status in what is expected to be a noncompetitive race.

After all, Watson has already proven he can win handily in SD 14, having captured 60% of the district's vote in his unsuccessful run for state attorney general in 2002. In this round, Watson is viewed as the likely successor to 20-year veteran Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, who will not seek re-election next year.

Considering his establishment ties (he chairs the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce and is a new partner in the corporate law firm of Hughes & Luce), it's interesting that Watson rolled out his campaign before a crowd of liberals at Mother Egan's, at a monthly meet-up of Democracy for Texas, a Lone Star offshoot of Howard Dean's Democracy for America. Following a slew of other political hopefuls to the stage, Watson kept his remarks short, on point – focusing on the sorry state of Texasâ health care, and funding for public schools – and free of any Tom DeLay potshots.

For local Democratic Party activists, Watson's candidacy carries more pizzazz from a big-picture perspective. Not only would he infuse new blood into the Senate, but his effective campaign style could help tilt support toward Democrats in Travis County's swing districts. That's what they say, anyway.

Here's how the area House races are shaping up so far:


Travis County (Contested)

District 47: Anything goes in this open race. Democrats hope to flip this Republican seat, and the numbers say it's possible. John Kerry took 47% of the vote here in 2004, and two statewide Democratic candidates – U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett and Criminal Appeals Justice Jan Patterson – won decisive victories.

Republican

Alex Castano, business owner

Terry Dill, professional golfer

Rich Phillips, consultant

Scott Sanders, retail business owner

Bill Welch, real estate executive

Democrat

Valinda Bolton, nonprofit professional

Jason Earle, community relations

Dennis Speight, legislative aide

District 48: GOP Rep. Todd Baxter is making his second re-election run after a narrow win in 2004. He's one of the hardest-working campaigners around, but his hard-right votes on education could be his undoing this time around.

Republican

Todd Baxter (incumbent)

Democrat

Andy Brown, attorney

Donna Howard, nurse, former Eanes ISD trustee

Kathy Rider, social worker, former AISD board president

District 50: Anti-tax Republican Don Zimmerman hopes he can do to Democratic Rep. Mark Strama what Strama did to Republican Jack Stick in 2004. In our view, Strama enters the race on solid ground.

Republican

Don Zimmerman, software engineer

Democrat

Mark Strama (incumbent)

In other Travis Co. races, incumbents Dawnna Dukes (District 46), Elliott Naishtat (District 49), and Eddie Rodriguez (District 51) are so far unopposed.


Williamson County

GOP incumbents will be hard to beat in this red county, but Dems will try, nonetheless. Retiree Jim Stauber challenges GOP incumbent Dan Gattis in District 20; substitute teacher Karen Felthauser takes on Mike Krusee in District 52.

Hays County

So far, Rep. Patrick Rose, D-Dripping Springs, is running unopposed.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Texas Legislature, Kirk Watson, Gonzalo Barrientos, Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, Hughes & Luce, Dist. 47, John Kerry, Lloyd Doggett, Jan Patterson, Dist. 48, Alex Castano, Terry Dill, Rich Phillips, Scott Sanders, Bill Welch, Valinda Baxter, Jason Earle, Dennis Speight, Todd Baxter, Andy Brown

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