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Six candidates, including two well-known Democrats, file in special Texas Senate election to replace Kirk Watson

State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez and former Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt, both Democrats, are among those vying for the seat. So is former Austin City Council member Don Zimmerman, a Republican.

An aerial view of the Capitol during the coronavirus outbreak on March 23, 2020.

Six candidates, including some well-known Austin-area politicians, have filed to run for the July 14 special election to replace retired Democratic state Sen. Kirk Watson, according to the Texas secretary of state’s office.

Candidates had until 5 p.m. Wednesday to file to run for the seat.

State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, a longtime Austin Democrat, and former Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt are widely considered the two most prominent candidates for Texas Senate District 14, a historically Democratic seat that covers Bastrop County and parts of Travis County.

Rodriguez has served in the House since 2003 and has support from most of Travis County’s state House delegation. And Eckhardt, whose last day as county judge was Tuesday, has helped to oversee the community’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Two Republicans are also running for the Senate seat: Don Zimmerman, a former Austin City Council member, and Waller Thomas Burns II, who initially filed as an independent.

Former Lago Vista City Council member Pat Dixon is running as a Libertarian, while Jeff Ridgeway is running as an independent candidate. Several others, including Austin City Council member Greg Casar, had been eyeing a run but decided not to join the race.

Watson, who had served in the upper chamber since 2007, left office at the end of April to become the first dean of the University of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs. After Watson’s announcement in February, Rodriguez became the first to enter the race to replace the outgoing senator in March. Soon after, Eckhardt announced she would leave office to run for the seat, though she ended up pushing back her resignation date to help respond to the pandemic.

The date for the special election would have ordinarily happened in May, but Gov. Greg Abbott pushed it to July due to the pandemic. Abbott also recently doubled the early voting period for the race, along with the July 14 primary runoffs, which were originally set for May. Early voting will begin June 29 instead of July 6.

Patrick Svitek contributed to this report.

Disclosure: The Texas secretary of state and the University of Houston have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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