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Sarah Eckhardt leads special election, but doesn't avoid runoff for former Texas Sen. Kirk Watson’s seat

Kirk Watson announced in February that he was retiring to become a dean at the University of Houston.

AUSTIN, Texas — Results indicate former Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt is leading in the special election race to serve as a Texas state senator in District 14, which serves portions of Austin, Pflugerville, Manor and Bastrop. However, unofficial results show that the race is likely headed for a runoff.

According to the Secretary of State's website, Eckhardt earned 49.66% of the vote as of Wednesday morning. It's a strong lead, with her closest competitor, State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, at 33.84%. 

However, Eckhardt has not gathered enough votes to avoid a runoff election.

Former Austin City Councilmember Don Zimmerman got 13%, retired attorney Waller Thomas Burns II got 1.2%, Dr. Jeff Ridgeway garnered 1.16% and former Lago Vista City Councilmember Pat Dixon earned 1.09%.

Former State Sen. Kirk Watson, an Austin Democrat, announced in February that he would be retiring from the Texas Senate to become the founding dean of the University of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs. His last day in office was April 30.

RELATED: 

Casar no longer running for Texas Senate, Zimmerman exploring his options

State Sen. Kirk Watson headed to University of Houston

Rep. Eddie Rodriguez first candidate on the ballot for Senate District 14 special election

His departure set off the special election to serve the rest of the term, which will end in 2022.

Eckhardt most recently served as Travis County judge, earning re-election for a second term in 2018.

After she earned a Master of Public Affairs and law degree from The University of Texas at Austin, she worked for eight years as an assistant Travis County attorney. She was elected to represent Precinct 2 on the Commissioners Court and was reelected in 2010.

Eckhardt has also served on the Transportation Policy Board of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO), has served as chair-elect on the Texas Conference of Urban Counties (CUC) board of directors and is a member of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council.

Learn more about her here.

RELATED: Texas This Week: Sarah Eckhardt, candidate for Texas Senate District 14

Credit: KVUE
These six Central Texans are vying for the Texas Senate District 14 seat vacated by Kirk Watson.

Here is background on her opponents in the special election:

State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D)

Rodriguez was first elected to the Texas Legislature in 2002. He was reelected in 2018 to serve his eighth term as the representative for District 51, which serves Central, East and southeast Austin, as well as southeast Travis County.

He served on the House Committees on Calendars, State Affairs and Ways & Means in the 86th Legislative Session. He is co-founder and chair of the Texas House Farm-to-Table Caucus, Policy Chair of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus and an active member of the House Women’s Caucus, the House Democratic Caucus and the Legislative Study Group. He is also the dean of the Travis County delegation and is the vice president of an Austin title company.

Rep. Rodriguez was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley. He graduated from McAllen Memorial High School and studied government at The University of Texas at Austin, where he earned his law degree in 2008. He was the first in his family to attend college.

Learn more about him here.

RELATED: Texas This Week: State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, candidate for Texas Senate District 14

Don Zimmerman (R)

Zimmerman is a former Austin City Council member who represented District 6, where he was known for advocating for tax relief.

Zimmerman, originally from San Antonio, is a fifth-generation Texan. He started his career in politics upon his election to his local utility district in Canyon Creek, where he led a successful lawsuit against the City of Austin for illegal taxation.

The former councilman has advocated under platforms such as increasing traffic flow with a western freeway loop, stopping subsidized housing and homeless expansion, eliminating illegal taxes, defunding subsidized abortion, expanding school choice and defending the second amendment.

Learn more about him here.

RELATED: Texas This Week: Don Zimmerman, candidate for Texas Senate District 14

Jeff Ridgeway (I)

Dr. Jeff Ridgeway has been working as a physician in Austin for 14 years. He graduated from Wake Forest University and the Medical College of Georgia. He is trained in obstetrics and gynecology as well as maternal-fetal medicine.

In addition to holding his own active private practice, Dr. Ridgeway has served as a leader in women’s health at the Seton Family of Hospitals, the St. David's Healthcare System and the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas. He has also worked with patients in underserved Austin communities through the CommUnityCare system and the People’s Community Clinic.

He has been a member of the Texas Medical Association and the Travis County Medical Society since 2005.

Learn more about him here.

Pat Dixon (L)

Dixon is the owner and operator of Dixon Process Automation Service. He is also a two-term member of the Lago Vista City Council. Additionally, Dixon has served as the president of Central Texas TrailTamers and the Texas Choral Consort.

According to Dixon, his platform is one word: Logic.

Learn more about him here.

Waller Thomas Burns II (R)

Burns is a retired Republican attorney who graduated from The University of Texas Law School. According to The Texas Tribune, he initially filed as an Independent.

He does not currently have a campaign website.

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