The Austin Chronicle

https://www.austinchronicle.com/news/2020-07-31/eddie-rodriguez-concedes-senate-race-to-sarah-eckhardt/

Eddie Rodriguez Concedes Senate Race to Sarah Eckhardt

Longtime House rep foregoes run-off, emphasizes Dem party unity

By Michael King, July 31, 2020, News

"I think it's in the best interest of the district to move on, and let's concentrate on November."

That's how state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez summarized his decision to concede the Senate District 14 race to former Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt, and to forgo a run-off prolonging the campaign perhaps into October. "I asked myself if I wanted to put people in the district ... having to come out in a couple of months and having to vote again," he told the Chronicle this week. "Instead, we should concentrate on electing more Democrats, and hopefully more people of color to the House. What drove me is what's best for the district."

Rodriguez remains in his House District 51 seat – he does face a Republican opponent, Robert Reynolds, in November, but should be reelected easily. In a statement released Monday, Rodriguez congratulated Eckhardt and said he looked forward to working with her on an "aggressive, progressive agenda."

On her Facebook page, Eckhardt wrote, "I have deep respect for Representative Rod­ri­guez and the race he ran. I look forward to joining forces with him in the next session to advance our shared progressive values for Bastrop and Travis Counties and for Texas." (SD 14 encompasses all of Bastrop County and about 75% of Travis County.)

Following late (still unofficial) tallies, Eckhardt was within a few hundred votes of winning a majority, with 49.7% of more than 119,000 votes. Rodriguez finished at 33.9% – a 16% deficit that would have been daunting for a run-off. After consulting with supporters and his family, Rodriguez decided that "asking people to come out and vote in another election when COVID might be raging drove my decision. ... I've got to focus on expending my energy on something bigger than me – public policy at the state level, and trying to get more Democrats elected."

Eckhardt will serve out the remainder of the term (through 2022) of former Sen. Kirk Watson, who resigned to accept a deanship at the University of Houston.

Rodriguez said he talked with Eckhardt before he made his announcement and looks forward to putting the sometimes bitter campaign behind them. "The Democratic Party is a family, and it's time to come together. ... At the end of the day, I want to see the Party united, and that's important to me."

Rodriguez said he had been inspired by his wide range of support – "from Equality Texas to Texas Pets Alive" – and looks forward to serving in a 2021 House featuring a Demo­cratic majority. "We're facing major issues: public education, criminal justice reform, social justice reform, redistricting around the corner, and obviously trying to pass a fair budget."

Rodriguez is the "dean" (longest serving) of the Central Texas Democratic delegation and said the group is "committed to getting things done. ... The excitement of the campaign was really encouraging to me about the future of the Democratic Party. It inspired me to run a great race and to make the right decision here."

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