Background Investigation: Sarah Eckhardt

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Sarah Eckhardt, former Travis County Judge, is running for State Senate District 14.

It’s only a ten minute walk from the Travis County headquarters on Lavaca Street to the Texas Capitol that sits astride Congress Avenue, but the two buildings house governing bodies that are worlds apart politically—the one local and liberal in its orientation, the other significantly more conservative.

For Sarah Eckhardt, a longtime county leader campaigning for a State Senate seat, the journey from Lavaca Street to Congress Avenue means leaving what she calls the “warmth and friendship” of public service in a Democrat-controlled county for a far more divided partisan battleground.

Kirk Watson

Eckhardt, a 14-year veteran of the Travis County Commissioners Court, is one of six candidates competing to replace Senator Kirk Watson (D-Austin), who has stepped down for a job in academia. A special election scheduled for July 14 will decide who serves out the remainder of Watson’s term through 2022.

The daughter of a prominent political power couple of the 1960s and 1970s, Eckhardt has made her own mark in local politics. She worked as an assistant district attorney from 1998 to 2005, an unelected position, then won election as County Commissioner Precinct 2 in 2006. In 2015 she became County Judge, the county’s chief executive. She held that position until May 12, 2020, when she swore in her successor as interim county judge.

A political progressive with a knack for the minutiae of running a local government, Eckhardt says the best way to win Democratic votes is by “governing well.” She wants to take the lessons she’s learned in local government to the state level.

In an effort to educate voters in the special election, The Austin Bulldog researched the personal and political backgrounds of Eckhardt and her Democratic opponent, Eddie Rodriguez. We used an organized plan to find public records, dig into the history of the candidates, and review relevant information from local news sources and other publications.

Two Republicans, a Libertarian, and an Independent are running too. But because SD 14 is historically a safe Democratic seat, we focused our limited time and resources on researching the two leading candidates.

This article focuses primarily on Eckhardt. A separate article focusing on Rodriguez was published, July 8, 2020.

County Commissioner and Judge

Sarah Eckhardt broke into politics in 2006 by ousting three-term incumbent Precinct 2 County Commissioner Karen Sonleitner in the Democratic Primary, then brushed off a Libertarian opponent in the general election. She campaigned against new toll roads, which Sonleitner had supported. But during her first term, Eckhardt compromised on toll roads, voting for a highway proposal that anti-toll advocates saw as a betrayal. The commissioner justified her vote as a necessary compromise to get state transit dollars, and pointed to concessions she had fought for, including free access for high-occupancy vehicles.

No one challenged Eckhardt in the 2010 Democratic primary, and she sailed through the general election against Republican and Libertarian opponents with 60 percent of the votes. During her second term, Eckhardt repeatedly opposed corporate giveaways, including $13 million to Formula 1 in 2012. She also was the lone vote against a roughly $5 million tax incentive deal for Apple in 2012, arguing that the deal should have required Apple to build a rail stop at its Austin campus and hire and train economically disadvantaged residents.

Running for county judge in the 2014 primary, Eckhardt faced attorney Andy Brown, a former Democratic Party executive director and a formidable fundraiser. The election was the closest of Eckhardt’s career, though she still bested Brown by nearly 5,000 votes, 55 percent to 45 percent. She went on to defeat Republican and Libertarian opponents in the general election with 62 percent of the votes.

In January 2015, Sarah Eckhardt was sworn in as Travis County Judge, becoming the first woman to hold that office. She was reelected unopposed in 2018. During her term and a half as county executive, she dealt with a pandemic, secured funding for a new courthouse, and oversaw a number of criminal justice reforms, including the creation of a public defender’s office.

Brigid Shea
Brigid Shea

But Eckhardt’s record in office can’t be summed up merely by a list of signature reforms or achievements, according to County Commissioner Brigid Shea, a colleague and supporter. Eckhardt took seriously her executive functions as head of a 5,000-strong county government, and “worked very hard on making county operations more efficient,” Shea said in a telephone interview.

Shea credited Eckhardt with establishing a more robust system of county managers, revitalizing subcommittees on the commissioners court, and developing a collegial and deliberative atmosphere. “I felt like she was a good manager and that she ran things well.”

Gerald Daugherty
Gerald Daugherty

Gerald Daugherty, the only Republican on the Commissioners Court, described Eckhardt as the “heartbeat” of the five-member court, saying in March when she announced her Senate run that she was “as smart a person as I have ever been around in my life,” and praising her for her public service and dedication. Eckhardt’s departure is “going to be a blow to the court,” he said.

Political roots

Sarah Eckhardt was around politics from before she can remember. Her father Robert C. “Bob” Eckhardt was a state representative and then U.S. congressman. Her mother worked as aide to Senator Lyndon Johnson and the newspaper columnist Molly Ivins. Her earliest years were spent in Washington, growing up in a four-story antique home in the fashionable Georgetown district.

Nadine and Bob Eckhardt with daughter Sarah c. 1967

The three-year-old Sarah Eckhardt—nicknamed “Pie” at the time, after the Sarah Lee dessert brand—entertained President Johnson at a 1967 house party while he and her father talked politics, according to a biography of Bob Eckhardt. Her father played a leading role in environmental legislation in the 1970s, fought to limit presidential war-making powers, and chaired the Democratic Study Group, an organization of Congressional liberals.

Sarah and her mother moved to Houston in 1973, ostensibly so that Nadine could “keep in touch with the 8th district for Bob,” though also because of strain in the marriage, according to Duchess of Palms, Nadine Eckhardt’s memoir. Despite the separation, Nadine and Bob Eckhardt remained married another three years.

Eckhardt attended middle school in Harris County, north of Houston. Through her teen years, her father continued to be a force in Washington, even after he and her mother split. “I grew up in a family of public servants, and so I spent all my childhood until I was 17 at marches, protests, and congressional hearings, on campaigns, licking envelopes…I’ve sat underneath picnic benches while my father talked to union shop organizers,” Eckhardt recalled in a telephone interview.

As a 15-year-old, she was roped into his 1980 campaign, his last, according to biographer Gary Keith. “Bob’s campaigns were a family affair,” Keith wrote in Eckhardt: There Once Was a Congressman from Texas. “The girls would be hauled into the campaign events.” Her mother, meanwhile, worked in real estate, had a gig with an Austin lobbyist, and later got involved in a number of liberal political causes and campaigns.

Theater years

The Eckhardt family dabbled in the arts in addition to politics: her father co-founded the Texas Observer, drew cartoons, and was fond of quoting Shakespeare; her mother was the “muse” of and collaborator with novelist Billy Lee Brammer, her first husband; and an uncle was a flutist who, at the time of his death, owned a collection of 503 musical instruments.

During her teen years, Sarah studied at the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston. She lived in a central Houston condominium “where we had a comfortable, fun existence,” according to Nadine Eckhardt’s memoir.

The 1970s also were a time of cultural change and unrest, and during these years Eckhardt’s mother delved into the countercultural trends of the time. In her memoir, she wrote, “In 1977”—the year Sarah turned 13—“I emerged from divorce as a forty-six-year-old fifties girl who had been altered by the sixties, the Vietnam War, the women’s movement, Buddhism, yoga, and three years of psychotherapy.”

Sarah Eckhardt played the role of Patti in the 1981 horror-comedy movie, “Student Bodies.”

At age 18, in 1981, Sarah tried her hand at film acting, appearing as a character in a horror-comedy film, Student Bodies. Seven years later she appeared in Things Change, a film about mobsters, according to IMDB, a movie database.

Sarah left Texas for New York University (NYU) in 1982. “I sort of ran away to New York to do theater,” she said in an interview. Her upbringing had been “amazing” and “inspiring,” but also “heavy” and a time of “upheaval.”

“There were lots of great things about it, but I really needed to go away from that for a bit in order to appreciate it.”

Eckhardt graduated from NYU in 1986 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theater. She stayed in New York after graduating, helping to run a restaurant named for her mother—“Nadine’s” in West Village—and acting in and directing plays with the Atlantic Theater Company. From 1990-1992 she directed The Virgin Molly, a play described in a New York Times review as “a military-service comedy with a modern twist, dealing in a capricious manner with a charge of homosexuality in the peacetime United States Marines.”

The review was critical, saying, “The Virgin Molly is relatively short, but still cannot sustain its premise. It soon descends to absurdity for absurdity’s sake….” But it also gave a nod to Eckhardt’s spirit of “prankish comedy” and the “agile” performances of the actors.

Shea, Eckhardt’s colleague, said she thinks Eckhardt’s theater years prepared her for politics because “it trains you to be mindful of how you communicate, how you stand, how you present yourself.”

For Eckhardt, there was something intrinsically important in that work, too. A mentor in the New York theater scene told her, “The theater brings the life of the human soul to the stage for everyone to view—and I think that’s true,” she said.

Eckhardt’s mother joined her in New York in the 1990s. Together with her two step-siblings, Nadine’s children by her first marriage, they formed part of New York’s substantial Texas-in-diaspora community.

Return to Texas

Sarah began to dabble in law and politics before leaving New York, volunteering and organizing fundraisers for Ann Richards’ campaign for governor in 1989. She helped host the Texas delegation at the 1992 Democratic National Convention held in Madison Square Garden, according to a later résumé that she wrote, kept for decades in her county personnel file and obtained by The Austin Bulldog.

Ann Richards

At one event, she dressed up as Ann Richards and impersonated her. When the Texas governor herself made a surprise appearance, “She yelled from the back of the room—because she knew my mother well, and she also knew my family nickname was Pie—and she said, ‘Pie, get off the stage. New York isn’t big enough for two Ann Richards.’ And then I hauled off the stage in shame.”

Eckhardt took a job as a paralegal at a New York firm in 1993, but she didn’t turn her attention more fully to law and politics until about 1994, when she left Nadine’s Restaurant and the theater company in New York and enrolled at UT Austin for a law degree and master’s in public affairs.

Her father, by then long retired from Congress and living in Austin, felt conflicted about having his daughter back in town. “My father was an artist. He was a cartoonist, a very good one, and I think he would have preferred me to have stayed an artist. So, when I told him that I was going to come back to Texas and go to law school when I was 30, he was both horrified and delighted,” Eckhardt told the Bulldog. “On the one hand, he was really happy for me that I had followed my dream of working in the arts, but he was overjoyed that I was going to go to law school and even more so that I was going to go for a public policy degree.”

In the end, Bob Eckhardt “loved having Sarah in town,” according to Duchess of Palms, her mother’s memoir. “They spent many hours talking about the law together.”

During her law school years, Sarah worked a few months for State Representative Dan Kubiak, a Democrat, and intermittently clerked at the Travis County Attorney’s Office. Tamara Armstrong, an attorney who supervised her for a nine-month clerkship, wrote in a performance review that Eckhardt was “a very reliable and efficient worker with a pleasant disposition.”

She graduated with both degrees on May 23, 1998. A couple months later she married Kurt Sauer, an attorney. The couple had their first child in 2001 and a second in 2003. Eckhardt and Sauer split in 2016. Under the terms of the divorce, Eckhardt kept the house and the two parents shared custody.

For nearly a decade, from 1998 to 2005, Eckhardt worked as an assistant Travis County attorney, until making her entry into elective politics. In this role she prosecuted family violence cases, DWIs, and other misdemeanors, and sought protective orders for battered family members.

Eckhardt reflected on her time as a prosecutor in remarks March 10, 2020, the day she declared her candidacy for Senate: “When I was a misdemeanor prosecutor we prosecuted some really damaged people, and some days were pretty dark doing that. But even in those moments of darkness I met some truly wise and brave people among the prosecuted and the victims, among the prosecutors and the defenders, and the judges, the jailers.”

Eckhardt has leaned on her legal training not only in handling professional affairs but also as the executor of two estates of family members after their passing, including her father.

She also filed a guardianship suit relating to Norman Eckhardt, an uncle, in Dallas County in 2008, after which a court declared him to be incompetent. The 86-year-old was “totally incapacitated due to progressive dementia and severe depression,” according to court filings. In 2011, acting as executor of her uncle’s estate, she sued a Dallas woman, Mary Cid, over an estimated $1.3 million in property that had been defrauded from her uncle, and succeeded in recovering five properties.

Setbacks and controversies

The Austin Bulldog does deep background research on the candidates we cover, including criminal offenses, but the worst thing we could find on Sarah Eckhardt were a couple of old traffic tickets. According to municipal records, she was ticketed once for speeding and once for running a red light, after which was required to attend a driver safety class. Both infractions occurred in 2014, the year before she became county judge. She has no other criminal record in Texas, according to a state database.

Heman Marion Sweatt Courthouse

Politically, one of Sarah Eckhardt’s worst setbacks came in 2015. County commissioners that year sought voter approval of a bond for a $287 million downtown courthouse to replace the 1931 court building on Guadalupe Street later named for Heman Marion Sweatt. Facilities there were inadequate to deal with “exploding” dockets for Child Protective Services and family law, according to bond campaigners backing the proposal.

The proposal looked like a lock until the Real Estate Council of Austin came out publicly against the idea just weeks before the election. “It kind of stunned most of us on the commissioners court,” Eckhardt’s colleague Brigid Shea recalled. “The chief argument was it’s too valuable to take this block in the middle of the downtown out of development” and off the tax rolls.

Don Zimmerman

Don Zimmerman, one of Eckhardt’s Republican opponents in the current Senate race, and at that time a City Council member, helped spearhead the opposition, arguing that it was too costly, would add to downtown congestion, and could be built more cheaply in East Austin.

After the defeat of the bond, which lost by just 1,048 votes out more than 73,000 cast, Eckhardt and the commissioners didn’t give up. Instead they found a different plot of land on which to build the courthouse and another way to finance it without voter approval.

Shea explained that the county government went to the real estate community to work out a compromise for how the courthouse could share space with other commercial development downtown.

“This is an example of Sarah’s leadership. It wasn’t exactly a public-private partnership but it was a very creative approach to basically engage the real estate community up front to find out what they might be interested in doing with that block at 308 Guadalupe.”

After a period of public input and negotiations, county planners worked out a new arrangement for a ground-lease on county land for mixed-use development, which would help pay for the construction of the courthouse itself. The county funded the venture through certificates of obligation, a type of borrowing that doesn’t require voter approval. “It was really creative process; I think she took a defeat and turned it into a victory,” said Shea.

But what Shea sees as an example of Eckhardt’s perseverance and creativity, Zimmerman sees as a “a cowardly and arrogant abuse of power.” In a June 8, 2020, senate campaign email, he slammed Eckhardt for “defying the will of the electorate” and questioned the legality of the $328.5 million in certificates of obligation.

The county also put $16 million in cash into the deal, bringing the total cost to $344.5 million.

Eckhardt responded in an interview, saying she agreed with Zimmerman that the voters had spoken, but insisted that the courthouse plan that the county later adopted was different from the rejected proposal.

Jab at Abbott backfired

Greg Abbott

Eckhardt’s quick wit and prankish sense of humor occasionally have landed her in trouble. She put her foot in her mouth at the Texas Tribune Festival in 2018 when she said that the Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who is paralyzed from the waist down, “hates trees because one fell on him.”

Her remark came during a discussion of state action to override local rules like Austin’s tree ordinance.

Eckhardt apologized to the governor and walked back her remarks, saying they were “flippant” and “inappropriate.”

COVID-19 and campaign controversies

Another controversy came more recently, in connection with the current campaign. After announcing her resignation as county judge on March 10, Eckhardt began soliciting political donations on her website. She also sent emails to supporters seeking donations. That prompted a complaint filed with the Texas Ethics Commission, because candidates in Texas are prohibited from soliciting or accepting donations without first appointing a campaign treasurer. She already had a treasurer appointed for her as county judge but a new one was needed for the senate campaign.

Eckhardt appointed a treasurer weeks later, on April 8, and said she would return donations that she had received prior to the treasurer’s appointment. She told the Austin American-Statesman  that she had been distracted by the coronavirus outbreak, saying, “The last five weeks have been like no other, and I frankly forgot to file that piece of paper.” Eckhardt could face a fine for the oversight, according to Ethics Commission rules.

She also told the Statesman that she estimated those improper contributions of “about $5,000” would be returned. The Austin Bulldog’s analysis showed that all $11,435 in contributions reported April 22, 2020, were accepted before the senate campaign treasurer was appointed. Further, none of that money has been returned, according to analysis of her later campaign finance report of June 15, 2020.

When the Bulldog informed Eckhardt of these facts via text message, she referred us to her attorney, but added, “…this is small potatoes compared to the $700,000 one of my opponents has raised.”

Steve Adler

The decision to cancel South by Southwest (SXSW) in early March was one of the key early measures taken by Eckhardt and Austin Mayor Steve Adler to stop the spread of the virus. But she faced criticism for filming a public service announcement afterwards in which she downplayed the risk of the virus.

In the brief video released March 7, Eckhardt sat at a restaurant with Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Senator Kirk Watson. She said, “We want to make sure that everybody knows it’s still safe and a wonderful thing to stand with Austin, to eat with Austin, to take rideshares with Austin, and to go see local bands with Austin. So y’all get out and enjoy yourselves.”

Bill Aleshire
Bill Aleshire

Attorney Bill Aleshire, a former Travis County judge, criticized Eckhardt for the video, saying in a telephone interview that public health decisions are “tough” but he still thinks she should have known better.

Aleshire also took issue with Eckhardt for failing to fight Governor Abbott over an order overturning fines for not wearing a mask in public.

Sam Biscoe

Eckhardt’s successor, Sam Biscoe, later reimposed a mask order on businesses, but for a period in late April and May, before Eckhardt stepped down from office, there were no penalties associated with mask violations.

“I think that they should have gone to court,” Aleshire said, arguing that the governor’s order was illegal. County judges, the former judge explained, have “separate, independent, statutory authority” to impose emergency orders, which can’t be overridden by a governor in the way that Abbott did.

(Disclosure: Aleshire represented The Austin Bulldog in two public information lawsuits in 2011. He also represents the Bulldog on public information requests.)

Lina Hidalgo

Judge Lina Hidalgo, Eckhardt’s counterpart in Harris County, has endorsed Eckhardt and praised her response to the pandemic, saying that she was “instrumental in bringing together local leaders from across Texas in our frontline battle against the pandemic.” Hidalgo credited Eckhardt with helping save “thousands of lives.”

Resigned, then took it back

Eckhardt also faced questions over her decision to delay her departure from office until mid-May, after first announcing her candidacy for Texas Senate on March 10. The governor on March 20 ordered a month-and-a-half delay to the senate special election. Three days later, Eckhardt said she needed to stay in office longer, in order to help lead the county’s coronavirus response.

The Travis County GOP seized on that decision in an April 17 press release. Citing the resign-to-run provision of the Texas Constitution, the GOP said that Eckhardt was using a “loophole” to continue collecting her salary while campaigning for higher office. The party also questioned the legality of health orders issued by Eckhardt after her resignation.

Aleshire, a Democrat, commented, “It didn’t look right to me…She got paid more by asking (her successor) Sam Biscoe to hold off taking the oath of office even though she had already resigned.”

Eckhardt responded in an interview, insisting that she was motivated only by a desire to serve. “I would hope that anybody, when faced with a worldwide pandemic that was hitting their county, would think it’s an ‘all hands on deck moment.’ ”

After leaving office, Eckhardt retained a volunteer advisory role in county government under her successor, Biscoe. “It’s not without controversy,” said Gerald Daugherty, her only Republican colleague on the Commissioners Court. But ultimately he defended Eckhardt, saying the county was getting a “good deal” in having her as an expert advisor.

“The reason that I ultimately am okay with it is that Judge Biscoe will be the judge and nothing can be done without his approval,” Daugherty said, referring to the incoming caretaker judge, who will serve until a successor to Eckhardt is selected in a November special election.

Aleshire commented, “I didn’t quite understand why it was so necessary for her to extend her time in office in order to deal with COVID-19. It’s not like if you look in her background that she’s got some huge expertise and experience in dealing with disease disasters.”

Pat Dixon

Similarly, Eckhardt’s Libertarian opponent Pat Dixon took a jab at her over this issue, releasing a statement June 30 in which he said she was “confused” about COVID-19 data. He was referring to a radio interview she gave in which she reportedly said that the mortality rate for people over age 65 is 25 to 30 percent, when in fact it’s only 3.6 percent, Dixon said.

Eckhardt told the Bulldog that she doesn’t pretend to be an expert. “I’m on the team” when it comes to COVID-19 response, not “in the lead,” she said.

Attack on Rodriguez

In the wake of Black Lives Matter protests in May and June, Eckhardt took pains to demonstrate her bona fides as a criminal justice reformer. She cited her role in creating the county’s first public defender’s office, and a Sobering Center that has diverted people from jail. But she also drew flak for having voted to build a new women’s jail, over the objections of some criminal justice advocacy organizations.

Eddie Rodriguez

But Eckhardt stood by her record and even went on the offensive during an online candidate forum, questioning opponent Eddie Rodriguez’s support for a key recent reform, the Sandra Bland Act. “The representative was not available for that vote,” she said of a 2019 measure to expand that reform, which would have prohibited arrests for fine-only offenses.

“He had voted on something else 47 seconds earlier but was not there for the Sandra Bland vote.” This drew an immediate rebuttal from Rodriguez, who said, “She was implying that I was not there, that I did not vote for that bill. That is untrue. There was a procedural vote on the Sandra Bland Bill that we already had voted on twice. It was not on the schedule. I take responsibility for not being there at that time, it was called up unexpectedly, but my record is clear on that particular front.”

The House Journal, the official record of legislative proceedings, indicates that Rodriguez did miss one procedural vote on HB 2754, the bill in question, but only after the bill’s author had bungled a late controversial amendment, throwing supporters into confusion and causing the bill to miss a crucial deadline that would have made it easier to pass. Records show that he voted for HB 2754 on two earlier readings, the second and third, which normally would be sufficient to secure passage of a bill.

Environmental work

Eckhardt has been a proponent of regional groundwater cooperation and preservation and she has worked to protect local aquifers. “Water has been a very big issue for me the entire time I have been on the commissioners court because water is precious here,” she said in an interview.

The candidate has portrayed her experience cooperating with neighboring Republican county judges on groundwater issues as an indicator that she’ll be able to thrive in a GOP-controlled state senate. At a June 22 online candidate forum with Bastrop County Democrats, Eckhardt promised to build a bipartisan coalition in the Senate to overturn the “rule of capture,” a Texas legal doctrine that says that a landowner who first extracts water beneath his land has ownership over it—even if it’s from a shared aquifer.

“Whoever has the deepest straw can suck out all they want,” she said. “We can find that sweet spot to establish a balanced approach and make headway on rule of capture, find Republicans whose water rights are threatened, and build a coalition.”

Eckhardt’s opponent, Eddie Rodriguez, likewise called for overturning the rule of capture, but he pointed out that the Texas Supreme Court has imposed obstacles that prevent lawmakers from achieving that.

In an interview, Eckhardt said that addressing climate change would be a priority for her at the Senate. “We still are a major polluter, both industrial pollution but also tailpipe pollution. We are big polluters just in our lifestyle, and so we will need to adapt if we are to survive.”

Luke Metzger

Just days before early voting began, Eckhardt won the endorsement of Environment Texas, which cited her leadership role in banning certain pesticides in Travis County, battling the Permian Highway Pipeline Project, and adopting a business financing program to promote energy efficiency. Eckhardt can be counted on to be a “champion for the environment” at the Texas Capitol, said Executive Director Luke Metzger.

Endorsements and affiliations

Eckhardt’s other endorsements include Annie’s List, an organization that trains and supports progressive women candidates across Texas; the Laborers’ International Union of North America; Austin Women’s Political Caucus; and the Austin American-Statesman.

Ann Kitchen

Individuals endorsing her campaign include Aimee Cunningham, a major Democratic donor; Margo Frasier, former Travis County sheriff; City Council Member Ann Kitchen; former City Council Member Randi Shade; State Representative Sheryl Cole; County Judge Sam Biscoe; and attorney Lulu Flores, who in 2002 lost to Rodriguez in a runoff for the District 51 seat he still holds.

During her time as county judge, Eckhardt served on the boards of several county-run corporations, including the Travis County Housing Finance Corporation and Travis County Development Authority, and she sat on the Bail Bond Board, Juvenile Board, and local workforce development board.

As a private citizen, she serves on the board of the Texas Freedom Network, an organization that advocates on a variety of social and educational issues, and on an advisory council of the LBJ School of Public Affairs at UT Austin.

Senate plans

Eckhardt says that if she wins the election, her priorities in the Senate will include Medicaid expansion, police reform, and protecting the environment. “I’m a public servant, and I like tackling big problems,” she told The Austin Bulldog.

“We need to take a look at how we rely upon employer-based healthcare and how any kind of economic disruption like this one creates a massive upheaval—not only economically but health-wise, because people lose their health insurance along with their jobs,” she said.

On criminal justice reform, she promised to invest more heavily in mental health care and “get rid of the militarized and federalized aspect of local policing.” As to “defunding the police,” she said, “I’m in favor of right-sizing the police.”

Asked about following in her father’s footsteps at the Texas Legislature, Eckhardt denied that there is any “legacy” and insisted that she’s her own person who made her own career. She pointed out that her father died nearly 20 years ago was last in political office 40 years ago.

“I love my father and I have deep respect for the work that he’s done, but there is no legacy here,” Eckhardt said. “I don’t feel that I’m from a political dynasty and I don’t feel that I have any claim because of what my father did before me.”

“Political office is a great honor, but it is not a career. It’s a temporary trust that people give to you and they can take it away from you.”

This story was updated 1:14pm July 16, 2020, to upload and link verification of Eckhardt’s bachelor of fine arts degree.

Links to related material:

Application for Appointment of Permanent Guardian of Person and Estate, Norman Wurtzbach Eckhardt, November 4, 2008, combined with Plaintiff’s Original Petition of April 4, 2011, and Agreed Final Judgment of August 23, 2012 (35 pages)

Application for Probate of Will for Robert Christian “Bob” Eckhardt, December 6, 2001 (32 pages)

Degree verification for Sarah Eckhardt for Bachelor of Fine Arts, June 5, 1986

Degree verification for Sarah Eckhardt for Master of Public Affairs and Doctor of Jurisprudence in Law, May 23, 1998   (1 page)

Designation of Sarah Eckhardt as a volunteer in Emergency Services/Emergency Operations without compensation, May 8, 2020 (2 pages)

Marriage to Kurt Matthew Sauer August 22, 1198, and divorce from him November 4, 2016 (40 pages)

Municipal Court record for running red light and speeding (1 page)

Sarah Eckhardt Personal Financial Statements covering calendar years 2017, 2018, and 2019 (50 pages)

Sarah Eckhardt Voter Registration and Voting History in Travis County, (7 pages)

Special Warranty Deed for 1001 Lorrain Street, Austin, Texas (3 pages)

Travis County personnel file for Sarah Eckhardt (54 pages)

Trust indicators:

Bulldog Reporter Daniel Van Oudenaren is a journalist with more than 10 years experience in local, state, and international reporting.

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