|Member of the Texas Senate
from the 14th district
|Preceded by||Gonzalo Barrientos|
|Mayor of Austin|
May 1997 – November 2001
|Preceded by||Bruce Todd|
|Succeeded by||Gus Garcia|
March 18, 1958 |
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA
|Spouse(s)||Elizabeth Anne "Liz" McDaniel Watson|
|Alma mater||Baylor University|
Kirk Watson (born March 18, 1958) is a Texas attorney and Democratic politician from the capital city of Austin. He served as Austin mayor from 1997 to 2001. He ran unsuccessfully for Texas Attorney General in the 2002 election, defeated by the Republican Greg Abbott, who in 2015 became governor of Texas. In 2006, Watson was elected to the Texas State Senate from District 14.
From 2011 to 2015, Watson was the Senate Democratic Leader. In October 2015, he announced that he is stepping down from the leadership post but will remain in the Senate. José R. Rodríguez of El Paso, a former county attorney who has served in the chamber since 2010, is expected to succed Watson in the minority leadership. A rules change implemented in 2015 no longer allows Democrats to block Republican-led legislation from coming to the floor of the Senate for a vote.
Early life and career
Kirk Preston Watson was born March 18, 1958 in Oklahoma City and grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, attending Boswell High School. Watson attended Baylor University in Waco where he was awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1980 and a J.D. in 1981. While attending Baylor Law School Watson was editor-in-chief of the Baylor Law Review and graduated first in his law school class. He subsequently clerked for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
Early in his legal career, Watson was elected President of the Texas Young Lawyers Association and served on the executive committee of the State Bar of Texas. In 1994, he was named the Outstanding Young Lawyer of Texas. In 1997, Watson co-founded the Austin law firm of Watson Bishop London & Galow, creating a broad law practice that represented families, doctors, small businesses, and some of the state's major universities.
Watson is the husband of Elizabeth Anne "Liz" McDaniel and the father of Preston McDaniel and Cooper Kyle Watson.
In 1991 Watson was appointed by Texas Governor Ann Richards to serve as Chair of the Texas Air Control Board, the state agency that was charged with protecting air quality in Texas. During his tenure, he worked to merge the agency with the Texas Air Control Board and the Texas Water Commission to form the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission, and oversaw implementation of the 1991 amendments to the federal Clean Air Act.
Watson was active in the Texas Democratic Party throughout the 1990s, and he served as Chairman of the Travis County Democratic Party.
In 1997 Watson was elected mayor of Austin, running on a pledge to build consensus in a city that was then dominated by political battles between environmentalists and developers. He campaigned to raise more than $78 million for land preservation and $300 million for transportation improvements. And he led efforts to revitalize downtown Austin, secure the city’s long-term water supply, proactively improve air quality in Central Texas, and build a bypass to Interstate 35 through Austin.
In March 1999, he was named Best Mayor in Texas for Business by Texas Monthly Biz Magazine. Forbes and Fortune Magazine also named Austin as the best city or place in the U.S. to do business during this period. And for his service, Watson received recognitions from the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Austin Alliance, the Texas Nature Conservancy, Austin Family magazine, the International Downtown Association, and the Austin Chronicle.
In 2000, Watson was reelected with 84% of the vote – the highest percentage a mayoral candidate has ever received in Austin. In November 2001, he stepped down to run unsuccessfully for Texas Attorney General. In 2005, he served as chairman of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce.
Watson was elected to the Texas Senate in November 2006, succeeding Senator Gonzalo Barrientos. He received more than 80 percent of the vote. Watson was unopposed in the March 2008 Democratic Primary.
He serves as vice-chairman of the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security committee, as well as on the Senate Business and Commerce, Economic Development, Jurisprudence, and Nominations committees. In 2008, he was appointed as one of two senators to the state Business Tax Advisory Committee.
Watson has become a prominent voice on transportation, clean energy, and higher education issues, and he has campaigned to widen transparency in the state’s finances and increase health coverage for Texans, particularly children. In 2009, he led the fight against a budget rider that would have effectively banned embryonic stem cell research at Texas universities. The rider ultimately was not adopted.
Watson currently serves on many committees including the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO), of which he is Transportation Policy Board Chairman. CAMPO is federally designated as the primary transportation planning organization in Central Texas.
The July 2007 Texas Monthly magazine recognized Watson as "Rookie of the Year" for the 2007 session of the Texas Legislature. In 2009, the magazine named him one of the state's 10 Best Legislators. He also was given the Price Daniel Award for Distinguished Public Service by the Baylor Alumni Association, and the Excellence in Leadership Award by Concordia University, Texas.
In June 2013, Watson moved to overturn a ruling designed to end the filibuster of Senator Wendy Davis. Together, their efforts averted the passage of SB5, a bill that its opponents claimed would enact severe abortion restrictions in Texas. Instead, in a second special session the same bill was passed (96 to 49) by the Texas House, and then (19 to 11) by the Texas Senate, and then signed into law by Gov. Perry less than a month later. State Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson of Waco (Texas HD 56) told reporters following the Davis filibuster that the additional special session might "cost taxpayers more than $800,000." Another news organization estimated special-session costs at roughly $30,000 per day.
Much of Watson’s first year in office was spent mediating a long, very bitter dispute on the CAMPO board over highway improvements in the Austin area.
While many of the improvements had been in transportation plans for years, they had never been constructed. A lack of transportation funding, affecting projects across Texas, had led previous boards to support plans that would toll the additional capacity as well as nearly completed projects, sparking intense opposition throughout the region.
Upon being elected chairman by the rest of the board in January 2007, Watson led the effort to keep the controversial projects in the region’s transportation plan. He then spearheaded a public effort to create a process that would allow policy makers and the public to analyze the need for transportation projects, mechanisms to pay for them, and potential public benefits from them.
Most of the improvements were approved on a 15-4 vote, and none were opposed by more than five board members. The board was heckled with shouts of "Political suicide!" and catcalls.
2008 Chris Matthews interview
Following Senator Barack Obama's victory in the 2008 Wisconsin Democratic Primary Election on February 19, 2008, Watson appeared via live feed on MSNBC's election night coverage as a supporter of Senator Obama, whom Watson had endorsed. During the interview, Chris Matthews asked Watson to name one of Senator Obama's legislative accomplishments. After Watson was unable to list one of Obama's accomplishments, Matthews responded, "You’ve supported him for president, you’re on national television, name his legislative accomplishments, Barack Obama’s, sir." After Watson was excused, Matthews commented, "He [Watson] is here to defend Barack Obama and he had nothing to say; that’s a problem."
Election history of Watson.
Most recent election
|Texas general election, 2006: Senate District 14|
|Libertarian||Robert "Rock" Howard||31,180||19.68||+15.51|
|Texas general election, 2002: Texas Attorney General|
|Green||David Keith Cobb||41,560||0.92|
- Mike Ward, "Democrat leader in Senate to leave post", San Antonio Express-News, October 10, 2015, p. A4
- CAMPO Board members
- Hoppe, Christy (June 26, 2013). "Still disputed whether SB5 vote met midnight deadline". Dallas Morning News.
- MacLaggan, Corrie (July 10, 2013). "Texas House OKs bill restricting abortions, moves it to Senate". Reuters News Service.
- MacLaggan, Corrie (July 13, 2013). "Texas passes abortion restriction bill, governor certain to sign". Reuters News Service.
- Blake, Aaron (July 18, 2013). "Perry signs Texas abortion bill into law". The Washington Post.
- Elizondo, John (June 26, 2013). "2nd special session could cost taxpayers additional $800K". KXXV-TV, News Channel 25 (Waco).
- Brooks-Harper, Karen (July 17, 2013). "Lawmakers pass abortion, juvenile justice bills with time running out in second special session". Community Impact Newspapers (Texas).
- Austin-American Statesman "Board approves five new toll roads"
- Wonkette (with video)
- Uncontested primary elections are not shown.
- "2006 General Election". Office of the Secretary of State (Texas). Retrieved 2006-12-15.
- "2002 General Election". Office of the Secretary of State (Texas). Retrieved 2006-12-15.
- Texas Senator Kirk Watson official website
- The Senate of Texas - Senator Kirk Watson official government website
- Project Vote Smart - Kirk Watson profile
- Follow the Money - Kirk Watson
|Mayor of Austin
|Member of the Texas Senate
from the 14th district