Local NewsState SenateStatewide NewsState Sen. Kirk Watson to Resign, Become University of Houston’s First Dean of Public Affairs

Watson's hire illustrates the University of Houston's emphasis on building the Hobby School of Public Affairs — which was established as a public affairs center in 1981.
February 18, 2020
State Senator Kirk Watson (D-Austin) will step down to become the University of Houston’s first dean of the Hobby School of Public Affairs. First reported by the Statesman’s Chuck Lindell, the resignation will become effective at midnight on April 30.

Watson told the Statesman, “I got a phone call asking if I had any interest, and I was intrigued by it. I love being in the Senate. The only way I would leave is if there is a compelling platform for public service.”

He added that building up a public affairs school in “what will soon be the third-largest city in America” was an opportunity too good to decline.

Describing how difficult of a decision this was, Watson said, “I love Austin, I love Central Texas, and I love the people who have inspired me, embraced me, voted for me and invited me to be part of their lives in a way that moves me.”

Previously, Watson has served as mayor of Austin, Travis County Democratic Party chairman, and chair of the Texas Air Control Board.

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The Hobby Public Affairs school was approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board as its own independent school in 2016. Watson’s hire is surely part of the university’s plan to grow the standing of the Hobby school.

First elected to the Texas Senate in 2006, Watson has not faced much opposition since then. In 2018, Watson beat current congressional candidate George Hindman by almost 180,000 votes. District 14 sits in the northern portion of Travis County and is a strong Democratic district.

Watson’s seat will be filled by the winner of a special election, likely to be held on May 2.

The winner will serve the rest of the term through 2022.

Watson was rated the fourth-most liberal Senator during the 86th Legislature by the Baker Institute’s Mark P. Jones.

He and his wife Liz have lived in Austin since 1981, but will move to Houston for this opportunity.


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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.

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