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 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.
Alex Castano, business owner
Terry Dill, professional golfer
Rich Phillips, consultant
Scott Sanders, retail business owner
Bill Welch, real estate executive
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.
Todd Baxter (incumbent)
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.
Don Zimmerman, software engineer
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.