Elections 2020IssuesState HouseState SenateThe Back MicThe Back Mic: Potential Kirk Watson Successors, Bernie Sanders Rallies in Texas, New Committee Assignments

This week — potential Senate District 14 candidates, committee assignments for the Texas House's newly minted members, and Bernie Sanders rallies in Texas.
February 21, 2020

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“The Back Mic” is a weekly look inside Texas politics and policy presented by The Texan. In just a few bullet points every Friday, you’ll know about the critical developments from the candidates, elected officials, and policies that impact Texans everywhere.

List of Potential Kirk Watson Replacements Grows

This week, longtime Austin staple and Democratic State Senator Kirk Watson (D-Austin) announced he would be retiring from his senate seat to become the University of Houston’s first dean of the Hobby School of Public Affairs.

Speculation surrounding who his successor might be immediately started swirling, as names of potential candidates began falling into their respective columns. 

The Texan Tumbler

Here’s a look at the list of those who could be running for Senate District 14:

  • Greg Casar, Austin City Council Member, District 4 
  • Sarah Eckhardt, Travis County Judge 
  • Gina Hinojosa, Democratic State Representative, House District 49 
  • Adam Loewy, personal injury lawyer and Democratic donor who’s supported many Austin-area officials like Reps. James Talarico (D-Round Rock) and John Bucy (D-Austin).
  • Eddie Rodriguez, Democratic State Representative, House District 51
  • Jose “Chito” Vela III, criminal defense and immigration attorney who ran against Rep. Sheryl Cole (D-Austin) in the race to replace former-Rep. Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin). 

Several Austin-area state representatives have removed themselves from consideration, including Reps. Donna Howard (D-Austin), Celia Israel (D-Austin), and Sheryl Cole (D-Austin).

Meanwhile, Travis County Republicans plan to put up a candidate of their own. 

Travis County GOP chairman Matt Mackowiak told The Texan, “The SD-14 special election is an extraordinary opportunity to elect a taxpayer advocate to the Texas Senate to fight for Travis and Bastrop county taxpayers. I am confident we will have a very strong Republican candidate who will unify our party in this special election and give us a great chance to win this valuable seat.”

Though Texas Republicans have historically favorable results in special elections, Watson won reelection to his seat in the 2018 general election with 72 percent of the vote, defeating current GOP congressional candidate George Hindman.

Committee Assignments Issued for Gates, Birabil, and Eastman 

Three newly minted state representatives were sworn in on February 11, and, this week, Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen assigned each to their respective committees. 

Rep. Gary Gates (R-Rosenberg), whose race against Eliz Markowitz received national attention, was assigned to the following committees:

  • Appropriations Committee
  • Pensions, Investments and Financial Services Committee

Rep. Lorraine Birabil (D-Dallas) defeated fellow Democrat James Armstrong, replacing Mayor Eric Johnson as House District 100’s newest representative. She was assigned to the following committees:

  • Higher Education Committee
  • Urban Affairs Committee

Rep. Anna Eastman (D-Houston) faced off against Republican Luis LaRotta, and won the House District 148 special election runoff handily. She replaces Rep. Jessica Farrar (D-Houston), and the representative’s committee assignments are as follows:

  • Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee
  • Natural Resources Committee

All three officials must now win their respective primary and general elections in order to return to Austin for the 87th Legislature in 2021. 

Bernie Sanders Rallies in Texas

Democratic presidential frontrunner and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders announced a series of Texas rallies this week. Here’s a look at where he’ll be:

  • 2 pm Saturday in El Paso
  • 7 pm Saturday in San Antonio
  • 1 pm Sunday in Houston
  • 5 pm Sunday in Austin


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McKenzie DiLullo

McKenzie DiLullo serves as Senior Editor and resident plate-spinner for The Texan. Previously, she worked as State Representative Kyle Biedermann’s Capitol Director during the 85th legislative session before moving to Fort Worth to manage Senator Konni Burton’s campaign. In her free time, you might find her enjoying dog memes, staring at mountains, or proctoring personality tests.