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Founding Hobby School Dean Kirk Watson running for Austin mayor

kirk watson

Founding dean of the Hobby School of Public Affairs Kirk Watson retired in May. | File photo

Founding dean of the Hobby School of Public Affairs Kirk Watson is running for Austin mayor once again, after announcing his retirement from UH last year. 

Watson, a Democrat, was a state senator from 2007-20 after his previous mayoral term in Austin from 1997 to 2001. He also ran for attorney general in 2002 but lost to now Gov. Greg Abbott. 

“It’s official, I’m running to be the next Austin Mayor! Austin is special, but we’re facing a lot of challenges ahead,” Watson said in his announcement on Twitter. “By working together, we can create transformational change that doesn’t leave anyone behind.”

During Watson’s term as mayor in Austin before, UH political science professor Brandon Rottinghaus said he had generally good approval from the city constituents. 

“He was able to bring a fairly diverse coalition of Austinites together, with a business community meshed with progressives,” Rottinghaus said. “He was roundly considered to be a good mayor and somebody who people on both sides of the aisle liked.”

Watson also held a good reputation in the state legislature, during a time when Texas was changing. 

“He was one of the few remaining Anglo Democrats in the state legislature, the legislature changed significantly in the time he was there,” Rottinghaus said. “That corresponded to changes in the demographics in Texas. He was a bridge-builder, he was somebody who could get along with people on both sides of the aisle. He was a kind of common sense, liberal in a political environment where things were quickly becoming very partisan.”

UH said there was no prior knowledge of Watson’s candidacy, but representatives of the University still wish him well moving forward.

“The University of Houston appreciates the tremendous leadership and contributions Kirk Watson provided to the Hobby School of Public Affairs as its founding dean as well as his many accomplishments in public service prior to joining UH,” said UH spokesperson Chris Stipes. “We wish him well in all his future endeavors.”

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