July 3, 2011
Austin state Sen. Kirk Watson was elected this afternoon as the new chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, a post that will give him increased visibility and additional clout in the Upper Chamber.
He replaces Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, who stepped down.
As caucus chairman, Watson will take a lead role in crafting Democratic strategy and serving as a spokesman for party members in the Legislature.
Watson has been one of the Senate’s most consistent, outspoken critics of Republicans’ handling of a budget shortfall this year.
“I’m excited about this leadership team, and I can’t wait to lead the Democrats in defending Texas families who have suffered from the decisions of those in control of the Capitol,” Watson, an outspoken critic of GOP budget-balancing maneuvers this session, said in a statement.
“Our priorities are the priorities of Texans — quality public education, affordable and accessible health care, and a Texas budget free of the debt, diversions and deception that have played too large a role in the state’s finances.”
Watson applauded Van de Putte’s leadership, which has included successful efforts to block several of Gov. Rick Perry’s appointments and a walkout by Democrats in 2003 over redistricting that brought the Legislature to a standstill.
“Now is the right time to welcome new leadership so Senate Democrats can hit the ground running when the legislature re-convenes,” Van de Putte said in a statement.
“Nobody is better able to lead us as we move forward than Kirk Watson, and I applaud his election.”
Van de Putte is slated to become the Senate’s next president pro tempore as the next legislature convenes, and the two jobs were bound to present conflicts, she said.
Also elected in the Democratic Caucus were two new co-vice chairs: Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, and Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, who will replace Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas.