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Eckhardt resigns, declares for Texas Senate

Wednesday, March 11, 2020 by Jo Clifton

Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt resigned her position on the Commissioners Court Tuesday, launching her campaign for the Texas Senate seat being vacated by Kirk Watson. Eckhardt wiped away tears as she told her colleagues, “I really love Travis County. … This is the most fun and challenging job I’ve ever had.”

“Today I am resigning from this great job, but I pledge that I will never resign from public service,” she said.

As expected, commissioners accepted Eckhardt’s resignation and voted unanimously to appoint former County Judge Sam Biscoe to take over in her stead until a new county judge is elected in November.

Biscoe appeared briefly at the commissioners meeting room while they were in executive session, but did not wait to see the vote. He told the Austin Monitor he would be happy to do the job for eight or nine months, but he would not want to do it for four years. Biscoe retired at the end of 2014, after serving as both a county commissioner and county judge.

Eckhardt, who served as an assistant county attorney and commissioner for Precinct 2, explained that she would be leaving the county after 20 years of service. “I started when I was 12,” she said, lightening the mood. But she expressed no illusions about how difficult life would be if she won the race, saying there would be “dark days in the Senate chamber.”

Her only Republican colleague, Precinct 3 Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, praised her intelligence and her ability to get along with people who have differing opinions. “I don’t think there’s anybody I respect any more than you,” he said. Noting that they disagree on any number of issues, Daugherty said, “You can be a great elected official at any job you’re in,” because “your heart’s in the right place.”

Commissioner Brigid Shea, who attended the meeting via conference call, said that the tribute from Daugherty “is a real powerful demonstration of how well we all work together at the county … I’ve really enjoyed having you as my judge.”

Eckhardt is doing her job as a public servant in seeking the Senate position, adding that no one sees the Legislature “as a fun, happy, productive place.” She also highlighted the negative feelings certain legislative leaders have expressed toward local officials, including House Speaker Dennis Bonnen.

Travis County Attorney David Escamilla said that Eckhardt will serve in the job until Biscoe is sworn in. Biscoe, like many county officials, must post a $10,000 bond prior to taking the oath of office, which will probably be sometime next week.

Eckhardt told the Monitor she has hired a number of experienced campaign consultants, including David Butts and Mykle Tomlinson. Amanda Nelson will serve as her campaign manager.

Watson, an attorney and former Austin mayor, has served in the Senate since 2007. He announced in February that he would be vacating the seat on April 30, in order to take a job as the first dean of the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston. Gov. Greg Abbott must call a special election in order to fill the seat, but he has not yet revealed the date of that election.

The Senate District 14 seat has traditionally been filled by a Democrat. It covers Bastrop County and a large portion of Travis County. Prior to Watson’s election in 2006, the district was represented by Gonzalo Barrientos.

Eckhardt said she is looking forward to lunch at the Wooldridge Park Pavilion with county employees on Friday from noon to 1.

Other candidates and likely candidates in this race include state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez and Council Member Greg Casar. The Austin American-Statesman has reported that Pflugerville Council Member Rudy Metayer is considering entering the race. Other possible candidates include two attorneys, Jose “Chito” Vela and Adam Loewy.

Photo courtesy of Travis County.

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