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Kirk Watson Steps Down as Leader of Senate Democrats

The Austin Democrat say he's ready "to pass the baton" to the next caucus leader. No word yet on when a successor will be named.

Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, debates changes that would affect the so-called "two-thirds rule" in the Texas Senate on Jan. 21…

State Sen. Kirk Watson of Austin is stepping down as chairman of the Senate Democratic caucus, he announced Thursday.

Watson said in a statement: "I've served as Democratic Caucus Chair for two sessions (plus a little time before the first one and now a little after the second one). I'm ready to pass the baton to the next Chair and want to do it so that the new Chair has plenty of time to prepare for the upcoming election year, convention, and then the next session.  

"I deeply appreciate the honor my colleagues have given me letting me serve as caucus chairman."

It was not immediately clear when the election to replace him would be held.

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Jon Cobb will no longer attend Konni Burton’s controversial Senate District 24 forum, citing the Bell County Republican Party’s disapproval of the event.

Last month, Burton announced her plan for the forum, which is set to take place Oct. 15. That's about a month before the start of the candidate filing period, a decision that the Bell County GOP opposed.

The forum was planned and candidates were invited before local parties, including Bell County’s, were notified. Local parties later received notification about the event, according to Burton’s campaign manager Cathy Scott. 

In response, the Bell County Republican Party Executive Committee issued a resolution formally stating their disapproval of the forum. The party said in its resolution that participation in the forum indicates “a candidate’s disinterest in serving the voters of SD-24, and will necessitate the Bell County Republican Party to actively oppose such candidates.”

Cobb took notice of this action by the party and left the forum, though his campaign said he had never committed to attending.

“My stated commitment is to serve the people of this district and no one else, therefore I am honoring the wishes of the folks from Bell County and will not be attending this forum,” Cobb said to Burton in an email on Wednesday.

So far, CJ Grisham and Brent Mayes have said they are attending.

According to Scott, Burton still plans to go through with the forum as planned, despite the backlash.

“I, the voters of SD 24, and those who will watch the event online are excited to learn more about the candidates who will be in attendance,” Scott said in an email to the Tribune.

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Texas political operative Brendan Steinhauser tells the Tribune that he has joined up with U.S. House Rep. Michael McCaul's re-election campaign. 

Steinhauser was a key player in U.S. Sen. John Cornyn's 2014 re-election campaign. A longtime operative for FreedomWorks, he also has extensive tea party ties. Steinhauser will also help with McCaul's national communications strategy.

The congressman is the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. He is running for his seventh term next year in the Republican-heavy 10th District that stretches from Austin to the Houston suburbs.

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