Waco state Sen. Averitt ends re-election campaign, citing health reason

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State Sen. Kip Averitt, R-Waco, said Wednesday afternoon that he has ended his re-election campaign, citing health problems.

The decision comes a week and a half after the closing of the filing period to run for state elected office as a Democrat or Republican and leaves Burleson insurance agent Darren Yancy as the sole candidate left to campaign in the GOP primary.

No Democrats have filed to run for Averitt’s seat, which covers McLennan, Coryell, Falls, Bosque, Hill, Navarro, Somervell, Hood, Johnson and Ellis counties.

Averitt, 55, a certified public accountant, has represented Waco since 1992, when he was elected to the state House. He issued a statement to the Tribune-Herald that said in recent years he has struggled to balance health and the interests of his family with his role as a public servant.

“I have been advised that I must now put my health above all else — for me and my family — and it is with deep regret that I announce today the cessation of my Senate campaign,” the release states.

“While I will not serve another term, serving my friends and neighbors has been my highest honor and greatest privilege, and I am proud of all that we’ve accomplished together.”

Staffers in Averitt’s office declined to answer questions Wednesday night, and the statement doesn’t make clear when the senator was advised to stop campaigning, what specific health problems he’s suffering from or whether he intends to carry out the remainder of his term.

Averitt has been popular throughout the years, winning each of the 14 elections he’s run in since 1992 and never garnering less than 57 percent of the vote.

Averitt was active in campus Republican groups while at Baylor, where he was also the trainer for the school’s bear mascot.

He befriended former state Sen. David Sibley before Sibley won election to the Senate. Averitt became his chief of staff in Austin.

In 1992 when a state House seat came open, Averitt won, taking nearly 60 percent of the vote.

He would go on to take Sibley’s Senate seat in 2002, quickly becoming a mover and shaker in that chamber.

In 2005, Averitt pushed to restore funding and loosen eligibility rules for Texas’s Children’s Health Insurance Program, which had been cut in the previous legislative session. He’s also been involved in crafting the state’s budget.

And as chairman of the influential Natural Resources Committee, he has been a strong voice for the creation of local groundwater-conservation districts and long-term planning of the state’s water.

On Dec. 10, Averitt and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst attended a Tribune-Herald editorial board meeting together. Dewhurst, who presides over the Senate, said at the time that Averitt’s name was in the mix to head the powerful Senate Finance Committee in the upcoming legislative session. On Dec. 23, Averitt filed for re-election.

Averitt has at times faced criticism from Republican opponents for being too moderate. Most recently Yancy said he would try and run to the right of Averitt when Yancy announced in October he would challenge Averitt.

“Kip’s definition of conservatism and my definition of conservatism are probably miles apart,” Yancy said.

But chairmen of McLennan County’s Republican and Democratic parties both had kind words for Averitt.

“The things he’s done are like a laundry list for Central Texas and Waco,” GOP Chairman Joe Hinton said.

“He’s probably doing the smart thing, but I really hate to see him go,” Hinton said.

Democratic Chairman John Cullar said, “Despite the fact that we’re from different parties, I’ve respected his leadership and representation and appreciate his service in the Senate and the House before that.”

Though someone could still emerge as an independent candidate in the race or run a write-in campaign, Cullar said Yancy will have a distinct advantage because he’ll be able to get on the ballot as his party’s nominee.

“The biggest regret I have is we’ll go from having a McLennan County senator to a guy from Johnson County,” Cullar said.

Libertarian Party members will determine at their March 13 convention whether Tim Ballard of Cleburne or Ben Faulkner of Red Oak will be the party’s nominee for the seat.

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2 comments

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