AUSTIN — Central Texans have an important decision this summer: Will they elect a new state senator to fight for them, or continue choosing one that works against them?
A special election is coming in July for Senate District 14, a geographical area that includes much of Austin and all of Bastrop County. The election is happening because the district’s longtime state senator, Democrat Kirk Watson, is leaving the capitol for a position at the University of Houston.
In his absence, six candidates of different ideologies—two Democrats, two Republicans, a Libertarian, and an Independent—are competing to take the SD 14 seat.
Most prominent in the race are Democrats State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (Austin), Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt, and Republican former Austin City Council member Don Zimmerman.
As a member of the Texas House, Rodriguez has earned an “F” voting record on the Fiscal Responsibility Index ever since 2011. With a dismal rating of 23 in the last legislative session, Rodriguez continually voted against his own constituents; he supported raising taxes on citizens, hiding elected officials from increased public accountability, stripping away protections for preborn children, and silencing free speech on college campuses.
Democrat Judge Eckhardt, meanwhile, has also voted to harm local citizens. Eckhardt has consistently chosen to raise taxes on citizens; the county took $126 more from the average homeowner’s wallet just last year and is now taking $400 more annually compared to 11 years ago. 42 percent of Travis County families are now struggling to afford the runaway cost of living, according to a report by the United Way, a cost that includes soaring property tax bills from local governments.
Eckhardt also voted to give herself a $16,000 pay raise last year, boosting her pay from $106,000 to over $156,000 in just three years.
On the other hand, Zimmerman has an opposite voting record as an elected official. During his time on the Austin City Council, he voted against tax increases, to let Austinites keep more of their own money, and consistently brought up issues of city money mismanagement and lack of transparency to citizens.
Zimmerman said in a press release last week, “When elected [to state senate], I will do everything in my power to bring the bureaucracy accountable by restraining executive authority to its constitutional boundaries and standing up for greater transparency and accountability.”
Also in the race is Libertarian Pat Dixon, a former Lago Vista City Councilman; Republican Waller Thomas Burns II, an attorney; and physician Jeff Ridgeway, who is running as an Independent.
Central Texans in the senate district, which is historically Democrat, will decide this summer if they prefer to again have a senator who votes against them (former Sen. Watson earned a career “F” rating and an awful 36/100 on the Fiscal Responsibility Index), or if they will send someone to the capitol who will actually help them.
Normally considered a safe Democrat seat, the Chinese coronavirus depressing voter turnout—combined with the already low voter engagement in special elections—has the potential to set up an interesting runoff later in the summer if a Republican can clinch one of the top two spots.
The special election is tentatively set for July 14, the same day as the primary runoff election, with early voting beginning on June 29.